Wednesday 21 February 1996
Land Use Planning and Protection Act, 1995, Bill 20, Mr Leach / Loi de 1995 sur la protection et l'aménagement de territoire, projet de loi 20, M Leach
Ottawa-Carleton Home Builders' Association
Caroline Castrucci, president
Dan Paquette, member, builder-developer council
Ron Clarke, member, builder-developer council
Robert van den Ham
Copeland Park Community Alliance
Kathy Yach, president
Hy Carswell, director
Federation of Ottawa-Carleton Citizens' Associations
Dr Paul Laughton, chair, sub-committee of land use committee
Amy Kempster, president
Wetlands Preservation Group of West Carleton; Trails of Dunrobin Community Association; Constance and Buckham's
Bay Community Association
Dr Meg Sears, secretary
Ottawa-Carleton Board of Trade
Graham Bird, past chair
West End Legal Services of Ottawa
Mary Garrett, community legal worker
City of Ottawa
Jacquelin Holzman, mayor
John Moser, director of planning
Township of Cumberland
Brian Coburn, mayor
Peter Vice, solicitor, Vice and Hunter
Big Rideau Lake Association
John Peart, director
Ottawa Field-Naturalists' Club
Michael Murphy, vice-president
Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton
Peter Clark, chairman
Tim Marc, member, legal department
Andrew Hope, manager, plans administration division
Peter Burns; Don Kennedy
City of Gloucester
Ann Tremblay, policy and environment planner
Grant Lindsay, director of current planning
Greater Bobs Lake Landowners Association
Lynn MacIntyre, president
Association of Rural Property Owners
Harold Harnarine, president
Bob Woolham, executive member
Clinique juridique populaire de Prescott et Russell
Louise Toone, avocate
County of Renfrew
Vance Bedore, director of planning
STANDING COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT
Chair / Président: Gilchrist, Steve (Scarborough East / -Est PC)
Vice-Chair / Vice-Président: Fisher, Barbara (Bruce PC)
*Baird, John R. (Nepean PC)
Carroll, Jack (Chatham-Kent PC)
*Christopherson, David (Hamilton Centre / -Centre ND)
Chudleigh, Ted (Halton North / -Nord PC)
Churley, Marilyn (Riverdale ND)
Duncan, Dwight (Windsor-Walkerville L)
*Fisher, Barbara (Bruce PC)
*Gilchrist, Steve (Scarborough East / -Est PC)
*Hoy, Pat (Essex-Kent L)
*Lalonde, Jean-Marc (Prescott and Russell / Prescott et Russell L)
Maves, Bart (Niagara Falls PC)
*Murdoch, Bill (Grey-Owen Sound PC)
*Ouellette, Jerry J. (Oshawa PC)
Tascona, Joseph (Simcoe Centre / -Centre PC)
*In attendance / présents
Substitutions present / Membres remplaçants présents:
Carr, Gary (Oakville South / -Sud PC) for Mr Maves
Galt, Doug (Northumberland PC) for Mr Tascona
Gerretsen, John (Kingston and The Islands / Kingston et Les Îles L) for Mr Duncan
Hardeman, Ernie (Oxford PC) for Mr Carroll
Smith, Bruce (Middlesex PC) for Mr Chudleigh
Wood, Len (Cochrane South / -Sud ND) for Ms Churley
Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes:
Chiarelli, Robert (Ottawa West / -Ouest L)
Clerk / Greffier: Arnott, Douglas
Staff / Personnel:
McLellan, Ray, research officer, Legislative Research Service
The committee met at 0900 in the Delta Hotel, Ottawa.
LAND USE PLANNING AND PROTECTION ACT, 1995 / LOI DE 1995 SUR LA PROTECTION ET L'AMÉNAGEMENT DU TERRITOIRE
Consideration of Bill 20, An Act to promote economic growth and protect the environment by streamlining the land use planning and development system through amendments related to planning, development, municipal and heritage matters / Projet de loi 20, Loi visant à promouvoir la croissance économique et à protéger l'environnement en rationalisant le système d'aménagement et de mise en valeur du territoire au moyen de modifications touchant des questions relatives à l'aménagement, la mise en valeur, les municipalités et le patrimoine.
OTTAWA-CARLETON HOME BUILDERS' ASSOCIATION
The Chair (Mr Steve Gilchrist): Good morning. In our continuing effort to seek maximum input on Bill 20, criss-crossing the province, we are pleased to be in Ottawa today. Our first group up is the Ottawa-Carleton Home Builders' Association. As you're probably aware, you have 20 minutes to use as you see fit divided between presentation time and questions and answers.
Mrs Caroline Castrucci: Good morning. My name is Caroline Castrucci and I'm president of the Ottawa-Carleton Home Builders' Association. With me today are other association members, Dan Paquette and Ron Clarke, from our builder-developer council. Briefly, the Ottawa-Carleton Home Builders' Association is the voice of the residential construction industry in the Ottawa-Carleton region, representing over 300 member firms. Our members produced 97% of the region's housing last year.
There is much in the new Planning Act to be applauded and we are pleased to see the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing move so quickly to offer needed reforms to the previous Planning Act. The changes proposed will restore balance to the development process and will clearly accelerate the decision-making process for approval authorities. Quite simply, Bill 26 is what doesn't work.
Our association does have some observations and suggestions to further improve the legislation. I will now pass the presentation over to Ron Clarke, who will offer certain comments with respect to the proposed legislation. Ron will be followed by Dan Paquette, who will present our association ideas concerning future planning reform.
Mr Ron Clarke: I'd just like to point out that we did prepare a written brief, which summarizes some of the comments that we're making here.
It was just over a year ago that we were here in a similar setting, submitting a brief to a standing committee on Bill 163, and those of you that were following the issue then may remember that our association had serious reservations with that bill. In our opinion, despite the claim that that bill would empower local government and streamline the planning process, we didn't agree with that. Bill 163 was enacted and what we feared would happen in our opinion did. We were left with a process that was more cumbersome, more complicated. Municipalities weren't given more power; they were just given more tasks. You've already heard about this from AMO, no doubt.
For the home-building industry, the timing couldn't have been worse. We've had one of the worst years in memory, and a more cumbersome planning process has compounded that problem and discouraged growth and investment. We do feel that a change is needed. We need more certainty in the process and we need a balance. We, in general terms, believe that Bill 20 is helping to strike that balance.
It introduces several changes which we do support wholeheartedly. However, we understand that there may be other interests in the province that are going to request this committee to undo some of the proposals that are put forward in the bill. In that context, we'd like to recount and reinforce some of the changes that we support and urge you to maintain and reinforce.
One of the fundamental changes is the "shall have regard to" component of the act, which will be brought back via Bill 20, replacing the "be consistent with." It's a return to an environment that had been around for close to 15 years in the province. There's a lot of case law related to it, people understand what it means and we believe that it works and allows policy to be implemented in a fashion that's sensitive to local issues and local sensitivities.
In general, we support the shortened time frames put forward in the bill for all of the planning processes. We think this is critical to the system. We see no reason why our approval authorities can't meet the time lines. Our experience is that the more time that is given, particularly to commenting agencies, the more time that is taken. We feel that the shortened time frames will require municipalities to take more autonomy in the process, to make their own assessments, to make their own decisions and not to rely on the process alone.
Another change that we strongly support is the business of deleting the requirement for a public meeting in the plan-of-subdivision process. This is something that we vehemently opposed in Bill 163 and we're glad to see that it's proposed to be taken out in Bill 20. Prior to subdivision approval, we all know that land use details are confirmed in official plans and zoning bylaws. A third public meeting we believe is redundant; it has to go to keep the process streamlined.
Another change that we'd like to reinforce and support is in section 9 of Bill 20, which adds new sections to section 17, which enables the approval authorities -- here in Ottawa it's the regional government -- to exempt certain official plan amendments from upper level approval. This is something we've been suggesting for years and we're glad to see that policymakers have seen the light of day on this issue. There is no need for the majority of official plan amendments to undergo a second process which merely duplicates the process they have undergone at the local level.
In our brief, we've added a note here on our thoughts on this issue. We'll be working with the region of Ottawa-Carleton to push for a blanket exemption of the majority of official plan amendments here, except under some circumstances where there is a certain core interest of the province or of the region, the theme being that the majority of amendments be approved at the local council level.
Also on official plan amendments, we support the replacement of the referral requests, referral to the Ontario Municipal Board, with a direct appeal process. Our experience here in this region is that the referral process has not been effective, although it would seem that it would be keeping power here in Ottawa-Carleton. It hasn't seemed to have been implemented well, and we'd prefer, as an industry, to get straight to the board, carry on our alternative dispute resolution in that arena as soon as possible.
Just one final point that I have relates to the role of the OMB. We support the OMB in its function as the dispute resolution body for Ontario. We acknowledge that it's been working a little better in the last year or so, but applications that go to the board can still take up to a year. We're asking the committee, through whatever recommendations you might be able to make in the context of this bill, to support the OMB and to bolster its professional staff and its resources so that it can operate more effectively.
I'd like to pass you now to Dan Paquette, who has some other issues for future work.
Mr Dan Paquette: Good morning. I'll be referring to section 4 of the brief before you. Now that Ron has told you how good a job Bill 20 does for the industry, there are still a few ghosts in the closet as far as we're concerned. I'd like to share a couple with you. There are four identified in the brief, but I'll raise two for your information, matters that could be addressed under either Bill 20 or future legislation.
One of the issues that we still face as an industry that's problematic is the direct overlap between the Planning Act and the Environmental Assessment Act. Often work done under the Planning Act is directly duplicated under the Environmental Assessment Act. Facilities such as roads and transit corridors which are properly planned for at the master plan stage are then studied again under the Environmental Assessment Act. These EAs at the beginning cost a lot of money and they basically do not add anything to the plan because they are a confirmation that we got the road and the transit corridor right in the first place. This is an area that could be improved; this is just outright duplication.
An example of this is in the east urban community here in Orleans. We've been planning for the last five years, at a cost of over $1 million of money spent, primarily developers' money, working with the municipality in perfecting a master plan community for 10,000 units, 40,000 population. We've nailed down the Transitway corridor, which is a major facility that's going to run through this new community, and now the region is having to conduct an environmental assessment to confirm the location of that corridor, at a cost of who knows what -- thousands of dollars. This is an area of duplication, something we could all benefit from by having it dealt with.
Another area that needs to be looked at is parkland dedication. The Planning Act has rules and we've all been living by them. If I'm going to build a residential subdivision, I've got to dedicate 5%, or one hectare for every 300 units, as parkland. That's fine. The experience is somewhat different. Some of the local municipalities in this area, through their official plans, have enshrined rights that are way in excess of the Planning Act. Kanata, for instance, requires us to provide 1.6 hectares per 1,000 people; in equivalent terms, that's 60% higher than the Planning Act. Gloucester could go as high as 2.02 hectares per 1,000 people, which is 100% higher than the Planning Act.
These are issues that arguably were enshrined in this official plan -- in the case of Gloucester, they have the act that permits it. The official plan stuff you could argue, "Why didn't you appeal it, industry, at the time the policy was passed?" These policies are older than me, I guess. I don't know, maybe the industry was sleeping when those policies were passed at the official plan stage, but something's not right when the Planning Act says 5% and one hectare for 300 and some of the municipalities are 60% or 100% higher than that mark.
On parkland, another big issue is double-dipping occurring as a result of two pieces of provincial legislation that require parkland to be acquired. The Planning Act, as I laid out, is 5% or one hectare per 300. The Development Charges Act gives the municipality the ability to collect money. That money, paid by developers when they buy a building permit, can be used towards the purchase of parkland. So the net result of that is that the developer is dedicating parkland under the Planning Act and then having to pay for parkland under the Development Charges Act. That, in our mind, is double-dipping. Those are two pieces of provincial legislation that need to be looked at relative to one another on this issue.
There are two other items identified in the brief, but we want to give some time for questions and answers. That basically summarizes my portion.
Ms Castrucci: This concludes our presentation and now I'd like to open the floor for questions.
Mr Robert Chiarelli (Ottawa West): I appreciate a number of the improvements in the legislation, something the building industry has been looking for for some time. But I'd like to take the opportunity, now that you're here, to ask a question, and perhaps you can give some advice to all the MPPs here. In the current economic climate, I'm not sure that changing some laws and regulations is going to kickstart the industry and get some activity going and get some consumer confidence under way. Can you give us any advice on what we in the Legislature can do to kickstart the building industry in Ottawa-Carleton and across the province, any one of you?
Mr Paquette: I'll take a shot at that. Effectively at this stage, 1995 was Ottawa-Carleton's worst year for housing starts since the Second World War, to provide a historic piece of information there. What's it going to take to kickstart this industry? Regionally, there are a number of issues that need to be resolved before we could get back to business, but there's no question that what the province could do is help us with the streamlining efforts being proposed in Bill 20. The Development Charges Act is probably the number one problem for our industry. The fact that municipalities have been able to collect, in the case of some municipalities -- Nepean for instance, has the highest development charge in Ontario for a single-family detached home, in excess of $9,600 for the local levy, of which about 40% to 50% is based on soft costs -- libraries, books -- things that we have argued can be funded through other means. So if you're asking me what one thing the province could do to help our industry, it would be a rethinking of the Development Charges Act as the number one priority.
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): Thank you for your presentation. I was struck by the fact that you've taken, as have other home builders' associations, I understand, a position that the change from "shall have regard to" to "consistent with," is a change you're quite comfortable with because, quoting your document, "It will also allow the implementation of a policy in a fashion that can be sensitive to local circumstances."
Yet under points for further reform, when you were talking about parkland dedication you spoke of the formula in Kanata and Gloucester as being out of whack with the Planning Act and asked the provincial government to do something about that. I find the two positions somewhat contradictory: On the one hand you want little control at the provincial level so that local decisions and local sensitivities can be taken into account in setting policies, yet on the other hand, when you find something you don't like in a local municipality, you call upon the provincial government to step in and put it back in line with a provincial guideline. Can you help me with that?
Mr Paquette: It appears to cover my material a bit closer. I think the issue there is fair rules across the board. With respect to parkland, what we're reading is two sets of rules. While we understand the principle of local empowerment as being advocated in this Bill 20, for larger-ticket items like parkland, we need to establish a common base to work from. We're suggesting that the Planning Act was that base. We're suggesting that this matter be looked at and deal with the issue of overdedication. Maybe Bill 20 is a policy that requires municipalities to compensate developers when there is an overdedication occurring beyond the Planning Act. I'm focusing on the parkland issue here, and I see that as an issue where the province can have a role.
Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): Thank you very much for your presentation. We appreciate it. Just to follow up on what Mr Chiarelli said, section 4 of your document is certainly something we should take back to Queen's Park and discuss with our colleagues. Your point is well taken in that regard.
Having said that, the purpose of this bill is to try to streamline the process and expedite the decision-making process, re-establish a balance, basically to say that local decisions are better than solutions from Queen's Park.
What effect would this bill have on your industry with respect to your operations and your economic growth and job creation?
Mr Clarke: We feel strongly that the bill will create an atmosphere more conducive to growth and investment here in Ottawa and across the province. The previous bill produced a lot of fear and a lot of uncertainty. We know of a lot of development projects that probably would have gone ahead, but due to the uncertainty they did not. The shortened time frames will give the industry some security that applications will be processed, processed well and processed quickly, so the industry can operate in its true market fashion.
Mr Baird: Obviously, there's no easy answer to economic growth and there's no one action the government can take to re-establish the success your industry enjoyed here in Ottawa-Carleton in years past, but we're keen to look at every reasonable proposal to balance the interests, to make a contribution towards economic growth.
The Chair: Thank you for taking time to make a presentation and bringing your comments forward to us.
ROBERT VAN DEN HAM
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from Mr Robert van den Ham, councillor, regional municipality of Ottawa-Carleton. Good morning.
Mr Robert van den Ham: Thank you, Mr Chair. You've received a copy of my submission, and I'll probably be reading the majority of that.
Chair and members of the committee, good morning and welcome to Ottawa-Carleton. My name, as mentioned, is Robert van den Ham. As a representative of approximately 30,000 rural people in the region, otherwise known as the RMOC, I'm grateful for this opportunity to convey to you some views and comments that I believe are supported by a large majority of these constituents.
Bill 20 and the draft policy statement are a solid step in the right direction. This attempt to bring in a planning system that is faster and less bureaucratic must be embraced. The province's examination of its own policies and separating out key provincial interests from local matters will give municipalities the flexibility they've requested -- the flexibility they require -- to maintain their autonomy and accountability.
A case in point is the decision to repeal the accessory dwellings of Bill 120. Another example is the change in wording to "have regard to" policy instead of "be consistent with."
Most rural people will welcome some rational realignment of unjustified environmental restrictions. Rural land owners are anxiously awaiting finalization of regional wetland policies and the development of the natural environment system strategy, otherwise known as NESS. I won't go any further on the NESS bit.
Current provincial policy obligates municipalities to review the natural environment for provincial and regional significance. Utilizing the proposed criteria to identify significant areas virtually removes all lands, except those actively farmed or developed, from any possible multiple use. This essentially is an environmental lobby land grab, without scientific justification. The Sewell commission, wetland and NESS policies, aggregate banking, conservation designations and development reviews are all part of a story of preservation of rural land at land owners' expense.
If some species or ecological systems need absolute protection, these areas should be bought from the owner for the common good.
Ultimately, it is the final municipal policy that is important to rural land owners in this overall exercise, and certainly the increased flexibility that Bill 20 will be providing will lend to a more harmonious type of policy that people can live with.
The proposed provincial policy is less prescriptive yet allows municipalities to go beyond the minimum standards established, unless doing so would conflict with any other policy.
The regional municipality of Ottawa-Carleton has been and will continue to be an area of man-induced activity where development, recreation and commerce are necessary.
I'd like to give you an example of integrated use, environmental protection and land owners' rights in a reasonable manner. This is an actual example submitted to me by the owner of this country estate subdivision. It is on the edge of a class 1 wetland. Drainage outlets which taper into the wetland are probably one of the most environmentally sound drainage plans in the region. In addition, he mentions that deer, turtles, raccoons, porcupines and all the good stuff, including 1.5 acres of trees, remain on each lot. Development has gone hand in hand with conservation. The owners of the lots that run into the wetland have a management agreement with MNR to protect the wetland functions. The man mentioned that MNR could not afford to do that -- or could chose not to do that. I'm not going to debate that point.
If these people had tried to develop this property after the 140-metre -- I think that's a typo; I believe it's 120 metres -- buffer zone had come into play, it would have been hopeless and would have been disenfranchised. The person would not have been able to develop under the current legislation with wetlands policies. Undoubtedly, the landscape has been altered, but development and conservation have occurred together, all at no cost to the taxpayer. He goes on to mention that a tour of this integrated subdivision is available to show people how it works and how it functions.
The tone of Bill 20 and the policy statement is healthy and encouraging. This positive tone, however, must also accompany implementation guidelines which are to follow. Other provincial ministries and their respective field offices -- and I feel this is very key -- must also embrace less bureaucracy and exercise more flexibility so that everyone is on the same wavelength and we can all focus on the expected results.
Members of the committee, my presentation today is one of general support of Bill 20 and the new direction. The bottom line is that we must all work together to provide an appropriate balance to the people of Ontario and the appropriate balances between development, environment, and in my case, representing rural people, land owners' rights. That would probably cover across the board.
In summary, I support Bill 20 and the flexibility to lower tiers. I support less restrictive environmental guidelines. I also support the principle of compensation for areas that need absolute protection. Thank you.
Mr Christopherson: Thank you for your presentation. I wanted to address your position on the change in policy from "be consistent with" to "have regard to." You spoke in your final wrapup comments of the need for balance between development and the environment. I'm finding that's a phrase that everybody wants to use, but "balance" of course is a very subjective word. The purpose of the existing legislation is to ensure that there are minimum standards of environmental protection province-wide, and that's why it says "be consistent with," to ensure that those minimums are maintained. I would suggest that it's not so much the balance that's the issue but rather that you'd like to see the yardstick lowered in terms of where it's now set to protect the environment. Your thoughts on my comments on that would be one point.
Second, as a former regional councillor myself, I am very much aware of the impact of one community taking a position, particularly with regard to accessory dwellings, and another community not. What happens is that you have a concentration of affordable housing in communities that, in my opinion, are progressive and trying to invite people in, and other communities that, for whatever reason, decide to be more exclusive and create an entirely different environment. You have, in effect, two worlds out there. That may be fine for some folks, but at the end of the day, looking province-wide at the need for the people of Ontario, I suggest that falls very much short of the kind of housing policy and planning policy that the people of Ontario are entitled to. Could you comment on those two points for me.
Mr van den Ham: I'll just start with the lowering of standards. I don't know if I'm suggesting lowering of standards, but I do believe that the environmental restrictions in place are too severe. If you want to call that lowering those standards, yes, I would agree with that to a point, and I think everyone has to find their own balance. If the province wants to set the minimum standards, then certainly municipalities have to follow those and then can be more restrictive. In terms of balance, finding that balance, that is also subjective. The key here in what Bill 120 provides will be some flexibility for some municipalities to find their own appropriate balance for that planning period, if you will.
To answer your question on accessory apartments, I believe Bill 120 removes it as a right for every homeowner, yet the legislation does allow for municipalities to go into that area. However, there will be new guidelines to allow for that sort of thing. I agree with that approach because I felt the current legislation that was introduced would kind of topsy-turvy communities, or had the possibility of having that effect on local communities that had been planned many years ago with certain infrastructure in place. People bought homes with a certain expectation and now to change this whole sort of thing or give everybody the right to add an accessory apartment to those residences would be very problematic, and that's why I encourage this new approach.
Mr Gary Carr (Oakville South): I have a question regarding some of the concerns that have been initiated over the last little while on being able to strike this balance. I firmly believe that people on councils who are elected are able to decide in their community what the balance is. Would you like to comment on the feeling some people have, that the province should have more control and that councils right across this province really should have a lot more restrictions put on them? What is your feeling with regard to that, on how much autonomy local councils should have versus the province telling them what to do?
Mr van den Ham: If I could just back up a second, before becoming a regional councillor, I was a local councillor with the township of Cumberland for five years, for the rural area. Being a person who's very much in the field and in the coffee shops and in the sale barns and going to the fair, I feel I have a good feel for that. Municipalities way back when, when they were created, were meant to be the political extension of the community. I don't think that's changed a whole lot, and if it has, then democracy is changing. I feel that local municipalities should have some sort of say as to how their communities are going to be structured and what sort of balance they would like to strike, of course in consultation with their population. I'm in favour of that approach.
Mr Carr: This bill, if you had to write it, probably wouldn't be exactly like you want, but do you think that the province has done a good job in striking that balance overall?
Mr van den Ham: The implementation: I think you provide the flexibility for municipalities to arrive at a better balance than has been allowed previously, if I could put it that way. Certainly people will go through the whole bill with a fine-tooth comb and come up with specific arguments and recommendations. As I mentioned, this is more of an overview. You can put a whole bunch of things into a policy, but it really depends how MNR is going to apply the fish habitat policies, and that's why I mentioned that was key. You may have this policy here, but the other ministries I think have to understand the same thing so that one field officer in southwestern Ontario is the same as the one in eastern Ontario so they apply or try to apply the policies evenly.
Mr Carr: How do you see it if in fact something happens and a particular ministry doesn't apply it? What are the safeguards for you to be able to tell the province -- you mentioned MNR creating a problem. How do see us being able to handle that, because as you know, we're big and unwieldy with many, very large ministries. I think we accept the general thrust, but that doesn't mean it will actually happen when you get down to the day-to-day operations. Is there anything else we can do to ensure that is maintained?
Mr van den Ham: That's difficult and I leave that in your hands. You guys are getting the big bucks.
Mr Baird: Point of personal privilege: They get the big bucks.
Mr van den Ham: I think that will always be a matter for discussion and perhaps negotiations between the ministry and the applicants or the municipality. As long as the positive tone prevails that you're trying to set: "Let's work together. How can we resolve this? A person can think of a thousand and one ways why we shouldn't do something, but how can we overcome the problems you're throwing out here? How can we work with you to override that and accomplish the end result here?"
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I think we're all in favour of more local autonomy. The real question as it relates to this act is what happens to the appeal rights people have, the ultimate appeal, in a situation where the general public and applicant and the municipality can't agree, through one of its committees or itself, who should be the ultimate arbiter in the situation. That's what this is more about, rather than just autonomy.
You talked about land owners' rights. I'm a great believer in land owners' rights. I'm just wondering, now that people have a right to have a second unit in their residential premises, how do we deal with the situation where you've got two identical houses in a subdivision, let's say, and one of them constructed a basement apartment some four or five years ago which is now legal? From outside appearances, those houses look identical. After this bill is passed, what do we say to the other property owner, who's mother-in-law or whatever wants to live with them now? He says, "I want to build an apartment." We say, "No, you can't." "Well, the guy next door has." How do you think that should be dealt with?
Mr van den Ham: When I was with Cumberland, we enacted on the bill that permitted that. We went through an extensive consultation process with our public, because we wanted to be prepared. When this was became law, we wanted to do it in a way which we thought would be friendly to our community. There were all sorts of guidelines and bylaws implemented to cover that sort of thing. Ultimately, I believe that one area is going to be quite different. You have, let's say, Rockcliffe Park here in Ottawa-Carleton where you may not want any of that.
Mr Gerretsen: Why? That's where the big houses are. That's where you've got the extra room.
Mr van den Ham: I agree. Maybe I picked the wrong example. Those municipalities should go into a public consultation process with a number of meetings and hear the comments from the people, whether you want to only allow one accessory apartment for every five houses. That's the democratic process. I believe where you meet with the people who live there, who are actually interested in accessory --
Mr Gerretsen: To the guy who wants the unit, all he wants is a unit. You can have all the process you want, but if he doesn't get the right to that unit he now has, he's going to feel aggrieved.
Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): On page 3 you mention that certain areas should be bought from the owner for the common good. I think you're talking about some fragile lands etc. There are conservation authorities that are now stewards of lands that perhaps people have turned over to them and said, "We would like you to keep this for time immemorial." Now that their funding's been cut over time to come to about 70%, how do you envision this land being bought from the owner for the common good? Who's going to do that?
Mr van den Ham: If the provincial policies say there is absolutely no development or they're going to, let's say, sterilize somebody's land through designation or whatever, then I think it's up to the province. If a municipality or a region goes further than the provincial policies and says, "We are going to designate that and basically sterilize it," then I think it's up to them to compensate.
Perhaps "bought" is not the correct word, but "compensate," whether they get a rebate on taxes for that portion or -- this is an idea I thought of yesterday morning about 6 in the morning -- where you have large areas, a land owner has maybe several hundred acres, and all of a sudden through the process he finds that 100 acres of this are all wetland or natural environment, that it has to be protected and no one is in disagreement with those areas, then perhaps there's a tradeoff possible here, to say: "This is what's going to happen. This is a wetland. We feel it's important to the ecology of the area." We're all trying to reduce our own spending, but perhaps the tradeoff could be in the form of severance, so that he has a financial advantage in one fashion. That's off the top of my head and I'm sure there will be many people looking at that one, the legality etc, but that is just a suggestion and I think worth looking into.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr van den Ham. We appreciate you taking the time to make a presentation before us here today.
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): Mr Chair, on a point of privilege: Is there any way of getting a little bit more room at these tables? It really isn't very operational the way we are.
Mr Gerretsen: We could excuse some of the government members.
The Chair: The clerk informs me that arrangements have been made to do that at noon hour, if you can persevere till then.
Mr Galt: We got rid of one. We sent him down to the end of the table.
Mr Carr: I am down here at the end of the table with the presenters.
Mr Chiarelli: We don't mind if you want to work in shifts.
Interjection: Bill, is he suggesting he doesn't want --
Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): Well, I was going to say on a point of order, it didn't seem to bother him until I came.
The Chair: I'll reset the stopwatch for the group making the presentation here.
COPELAND PARK COMMUNITY ALLIANCE
The Chair: This presentation is from the Copeland Park Community Alliance. We have 20 minutes.
Mrs Kathy Yach: Good morning. My name is Kathy Yach and I'm the president of the Copeland Park Community Alliance. Hy Carswell is one of the directors. We represent an area in the west end of Ottawa that has approximately 1,000 homes we deliver newsletters to. Hy is going to do the presentation on behalf of the association.
Mr Hy Carswell: Before I turn to specific items in the bill, I would like to speak briefly on the nature of community associations and the type of service they can perform, and therefore why their input can be useful and should be facilitated, and also to put my later comments in context.
A community association encompasses a defined neighbourhood and several hundred to 1,000 citizens. Among them are many who are unable or unwilling to become actively involved in municipal planning and development matters. Some fear public speaking. Some are not fluent in either English or French. Others lack confidence in their writing skills. The majority cannot attend council or committee meetings which are mostly held in normal working hours. Most find that land use policies and interrelationships of the National Capital Commission, the regional municipality of Ottawa-Carleton and the city a total mystery.
For the most part, therefore, the active land use work of the association devolves to a handful of volunteers, most of whom have full-time jobs and who by their nature are often involved in other public service activities. There is no staff, very little money, no spending authority for other than minor items without reference to the community, no immediate or inexpensive means of transmitting information to our members or of gathering their opinions. Historically, those few people are trying at any one time to keep abreast of one to six proposals or activities with the potential to affect the community.
Our greatest ally is time, time to find out what is proposed, to consult with the city and/or regional councillors and staff and our own councillor, to get the facts, to analyse the potential impact, to notify the community and if necessary obtain a mandate, and on occasion to raise money, to prepare a written or oral submission and to attend applicable committee or council meetings. If you take away our time, you take away our voice.
Sometimes we wonder if there are those who would welcome an end altogether to public participation. In response to Bill 20 and the related draft policy statement, the city staff views seem to give short shrift to the needs of the public. They ask: "Will the changes make our job easier? If so, let's support them." I did not hear, "Is this best for the citizens?" or, "Will this facilitate public participation?" In fact, the city deemed all Bill 20 changes to be administrative and therefore not a matter for public input, and so we come to you.
We bring another perspective, the viewpoint of those who, in the final analysis, reap the benefits or bear the brunt of land use decisions. We think we have a right to be heard and a contribution to make. We think the process should facilitate our involvement, not give lip-service to public participation while chipping away at the means to make it a practical reality. Let me give you a couple of examples of our community's involvement.
We made a major input to the city of Ottawa official plan which was well received and on which we gained plaudits from councillors and staff. We had a major input with respect to the subdivision plan for a 140-acre site adjacent to our community and brought about changes which were recognized as beneficial to the community and an environmentally sensitive area while not adversely affecting the development itself.
More recently, a proposal for another type of development adjacent to our community was put forward to the city. Councillors initially favoured the project, relying on staff analysis which in the event proved to be superficial because their resources are thin and their expertise is lacking in that type of development. The consultant hired by the city did not visit the site.
Our association, supported by a neighbouring one, conducted a more thorough analysis. We talked to experts in Canada and the United States and we brought forward traffic and other relevant material heretofore not considered. The information we uncovered convinced our councillor that this was a good project but definitely in the wrong place. Because of our new information, this view was subsequently endorsed unanimously by the applicable city committee.
Without our input, the development would have proceeded, whereas it is now recognized that it would have been a mistake for the community, a mistake for the city and a mistake for the developer. We are not anti-development. We support the expansion of the Arnon commercial complex in our area and we supported a strip mall within our community, albeit we made recommendations to improve the safe flow of traffic.
Those are three areas in which our association made a positive contribution, recognized as such by the city. But with the time lines proposed in Bill 20, it may be doubtful if we could have been involved, and certainly not to the extent that we were. We would find that regrettable.
Turning to some specifics of Bill 20, the reduction in opportunities for public input, along with a corresponding reduction in the time available to assess a change and prepare a response or make an appeal, is the most troublesome.
For an official plan amendment, no matter what the scope, only one public meeting need be held. Its substance need only be given to the public 20 days before the meeting and only a 20-day period is allowed in which to make an appeal. Even then, if that one public meeting is missed or time and lack of information preclude a rational written submission, the appeal may be dismissed. Incidentally, in Ottawa, council does not hear oral submissions. For a plan of subdivision, even one public meeting is no longer required in order to "streamline the system."
With respect to rezoning, the appeal period is reduced and the OMB will be able to dismiss appeals if the public has not expressed its concern early in the process. We would naturally attempt to become involved as early as possible, but the bill seems to assume that the public can become aware early enough in the process to review, assess the impact and prepare a submission.
City staff supported most of the reductions in time lines, noting that they will not unduly affect the rights of potential appellants. With all due respect, in this regard they don't know what they're talking about. A reduction by one third will significantly affect our ability to act, and we respectfully maintain that we are in a better position to assess the impact on our rights and the constraints under which we operate than anyone else.
Overall, the one-time opportunities to become aware of the scope of a change, coupled with the reduced time periods in which to prepare a rational comment, are incompatible with the reality of community associations or citizens at large. We urge you, therefore, to restore the time frames and public meeting requirements that directly affect our ability to be aware of and get effectively involved in the decisions that will affect us and our community.
Our association is very concerned with the change in the criterion for exercising any authority that affects planning matters from "be consistent with" policy statements to "have regard to" policy statements. The city apparently supports the change, because it gives them "a versatile tool in interpreting provincial policy." What it gives them is total free rein.
We do not agree with the change because it gives municipal governments too much leeway, since few bounds are placed on them as long as the policy was given some passing consideration. In our view, a policy that only requires nominal reference is not really a policy; it is a form of guidance or perhaps even a suggestion. To me it's like putting a sign on Highway 401 that says, "We would like you to not exceed 100 kilometres, but as long as you look at the sign and think about it you can drive as fast as you like."
We think the change will lead to wider and wider divergence over time from the intent of the policy. It will lead to the inconsistent application of policy from one municipality to the next, affecting citizens differently, and within a region complicating the transition to single-tier government. We believe the decisions should be consistent with provincial policies.
With respect to committee of adjustment, municipalities are offered a number of options and it is difficult to make relevant comment without knowing which one will be selected. I have some general points only.
First, members of a committee of adjustment are appointed, albeit one member could be a councillor. We are opposed to any system wherein a majority of unelected people can make a decision which cannot be appealed. Even with one councillor on committee, that councillor cannot reflect the balance normally occurring in council. In council, some lean towards development, some towards the environment, some towards social services and so on. Various viewpoints are represented. One councillor cannot bring to committee of adjustment that balance, and therefore appeal to council, even if a councillor is on committee, should be the rule. Four of five councillors on the city's planning, economic development and housing committee support that view.
The option that an appointed committee can make a decision which can only be appealed to another appointed body, the OMB, is scary. There is no elected person in the process, and furthermore, appeals to the board can be prohibitively expensive. We do not believe it should be an option for council to abdicate its responsibilities for both the decision-making and appeal processes.
With regard to environment and heritage, the bill will undermine the ability of citizens and the municipal government to protect the natural environment or heritage and cultural features. Municipalities should continue to be empowered to prohibit all uses or classes of buildings on land within significant natural and cultural heritage features. Removal of this protective device will inevitably lead to development creep and the eventual loss of the natural or heritage feature. This aspect of the act is puzzling, given the stated intention to authorize greater decision-making powers for municipal governments. We believe this part of the act should remain as is.
In summary, we are responsible citizens anxious to remain involved in our municipal and community affairs. We believe we have made and could continue to make a positive contribution. We simply ask that we not be denied the practical means to do so. Thank you.
Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): Thank you for your presentation. I was impressed, when you started your presentation, that you list a number of projects your group had been involved with and that through your efforts changes were made and a better development occurred. Is it reasonable, then, to assume that you do feel you have greater control and a greater ability to have input if the decisions are at the local level, where you can get to the people, as opposed to having decisions made at Queen's Park?
Mr Carswell: In some cases the official plan was local, although it required regional approval and subsequently the OMB or the minister. All of the official plan aspects have not yet been approved. With respect to the 140-acre land site, mostly our improvements were done by negotiation but subsequently we appealed to the OMB. I think we would not have achieved as much had we not had the OMB come in and be a catalyst for harder negotiation.
Mr Hardeman: You spoke to the committee of adjustment and you feel that an appeal process has to include an elected group of people, somebody apart who at some point has to be responsible. Presently that's not the case, of course. The committee of adjustment appeals would go to the OMB.
There have been concerns expressed by other presenters with the elected people not being able to make a decision based on the wishes of the electorate, that they would be pressured by individuals and that it would not be a true appeal. What would be your position on that?
Mr Carswell: Obviously I'm not as familiar as I should be with what you just said. Our community has only, I think, had one issue related to a committee of adjustment and our views prevailed with the committee of adjustment. I guess I'm reading something into this. I didn't know the present situation. But as a general principle, whether they make the right decisions or not, to me, I should have access at some point in the process to an elected body.
Mr Chiarelli: First of all, I want to thank you very much for taking the time to review the legislation and give it your very thoughtful attention. I think you've made some very good points. Of course, your association is in Ottawa West and I'm familiar with the three examples you gave of your community involvement and I think it was very responsible and very effective, how the community worked.
The process we have here involves getting public input in this legislation and then the committee will be doing clause-by-clause analysis, where they will be analysing each section and where there will be an opportunity for moving amendments at that time by committee members and by the government side as well.
I think it would be very helpful and useful to all of us on this committee if you could revisit the legislation, look at the time lines you've raised some concern about and suggest to us what you feel would be appropriate time lines, given your practical experience on the ground, working with this type of issue, the type of issue that most community associations across the province deal with on a regular basis. We would then have some basis and some advice on your part as to what reasonable amendments could be moved when we get to clause-by-clause analysis so that would could accommodate your concerns in terms of time lines. So I would encourage you to revisit the legislation, file your suggestions with the clerk or with members or with my office if you want me to circulate it, and we'd be more than happy to do so.
Do you have any sense now of specifically what you feel would be reasonable time lines, or would you like some time to reconsider and submit later?
Mr Carswell: I would prefer to think about it and I'd like to discuss with the remainder of the executive as well the opportunity to comment.
Mr Chiarelli: We would like to have the opportunity to move those amendments on your behalf.
Mr Carswell: Speaking of time lines, what time line do I have to get this back here?
Mr Chiarelli: As soon as possible. I'd say within a week. I'm not sure when the committee is going to be looking at clause-by-clause.
The Chair: Clause-by-clause will start next Wednesday.
Mr Chiarelli: Next Wednesday, so it would have to be by Monday, if possible, so that we can circulate and do the technical work necessary to prepare amendments to submit to the committee.
Mr Christopherson: Thank you very much for your very thoughtful, reflective presentation. I was particularly struck with your comment, and I wrote it down for future reference, "If you take away our time, you take away our voice." I thought that was very effective. I would ask you, given that this new government has decided to take away some of that valuable time that you now have, why do you think they're doing it? Why do you think the government is shortening the time and damaging your ability to be effective citizens and players in the development of planning your own local community?
Mr Carswell: I think it's probably inappropriate for me to put myself in the government's mind. I have been in the position in my life, however, where there has been tremendous pressure to look at bureaucratic processes and see the extent to which they can be made more efficient. I would assume the government is doing that to try and bring about as many efficiencies in the process as possible.
In our view, in these cases I mentioned they have gone beyond what is suitable for us, but there are balances. I'm sure there are other pressures to do it another way and I don't envy you your task of trying to find the balance, but from our point of view, the streamlining which is often used in the city and regional dogmas is streamlining us out of the system to an extent.
Mr Christopherson: We would agree. The reason that we have those kinds of time frames in there, that we put them in when we were government, was to facilitate and encourage groups like yours at the community level to play a role. We have a real concern that what this is going to do is exactly what you're concerned about at your level of involvement, and that is push you out of the play, and then it leaves those who have the influence and have the money and the ability to hire lobbyists and to lobby council members. Without a countervailing pressure from within the community, we're very much concerned that the planning process is going to become an exclusive arena for players who have the bucks to get in or the means to get in and the average citizen is just going to be set aside. I haven't heard anything from you that suggests that you're not somewhat sympathetic with that point of view.
Mr Carswell: It's close.
The Chair: Thank you both for taking the time to visit us today and make a presentation. We appreciate it.
FEDERATION OF OTTAWA-CARLETON CITIZENS' ASSOCIATIONS
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from the Federation of Ottawa-Carleton Citizens' Associations.
Dr Paul Laughton: My job is to be the philosophical sort. You have, by the way, just heard from one of our members. As stated in our brief, we're a federation of community organizations in the Ottawa area. Most are in fact community associations, but we also include the major tenants' association in the area and we have as members or close associates a number of environmental groups, so we go right across the spectrum.
For example, I represent an area of about 1,100 single homes with a residential assessment of the order of $200 million, so the playing field whose rules you are considering in Bill 20 is not a penny ante game. My task this morning is to remind you that there are three players in this complex game, not two. In this corner of the triangle, you have the developers, some of whom are good corporate citizens, some not so good. They can write off the cost of their troupes of planners and lawyers as business expenses. In that corner are the municipal planning staffs, who are financed in large part by our taxes. Finally, there is our corner, a fragile web of volunteer groups, poorly financed, fluctuating yearly between weak, strong and dead.
Mr Gerretsen: What's it this year?
Dr Laughton: Well, in the last couple of years we've lost three major associations with more than 3,000 homes each, that have just quietly died. We're glad to see that one of them is coming back this year. But it's an up-and-down movement. I've been involved with my association since it was formed over 40 years ago, off and on; partly off because it died. In fact, it has died more than once. The health of the organizations depends on the volunteers of that year.
Like you, we have heard the complaints of red tape by developers and, like you, we have tried to do something about it in Ottawa. The city of Ottawa has recently adopted a method called the Better Way for rewarding responsible developers with fast-track treatment. The price for developers is that they involve the community in their plans even before they officially apply for permits. The price for us is that we have to get our act together and respond quickly to initiatives or we lose our voice. We have a fighting chance of doing this because we have been involved in the plans from the start. This is the way we'd rather see it go.
The Better Way was hammered out by a three-cornered advisory committee whose elected chair was our past president, a very able man who had been general manager of the National Capital Commission. We were able to reach this compromise because under the 1983 Planning Act, despite our overall fragility, we had some rights as bargaining chips. So my plea to you this morning is, please be very careful in how you tilt this playing field, how you craft Bill 20, so that you do not leave your homeowners and tenants defenceless and unable and too disheartened to protect the interests of our people.
With this philosophical plea, I turn to our president, Mrs Kempster, who is an economic statistics consultant -- we're not all wild-eyed radicals -- for some of the more detailed comments.
Mrs Amy Kempster: First of all, I'd like to talk to you about the elimination of prematurity as a justification for dismissing appeals. We feel this is not a very good idea. We as taxpayers want to ensure that development does not go ahead which will cost us a hell of a lot of money to pay for the services. Looking at where the bill talks about what it's doing in the development charges area and the fact that we don't know where that's going, we feel that any defence we can have against proposals going forward which are not economic to finance is not a good idea. So we would like to keep in the legislation the prematurity clauses so that appeals can be dismissed if they are premature. We very strongly support that.
By the way, the staff reports of both the city of Ottawa and the region were also in support of keeping those prematurity clauses.
We also feel the bill will lead to uneven treatment across the province of environmentally and culturally sensitive properties. The bill sort of says that -- there's a little "all...or" there and it takes out the "all...or." That is a very significant change because it changes the power of municipalities to legislate that no types of structures be built on such land. We feel that's taking power away from municipalities, not giving it to them, which this bill is supposed to be about. So we feel that little deletion of "all...or" should come right out of the bill.
A point I didn't make earlier is the whole case that in the previous bill there was some mention of what should be in official plans. We'd like to see either something prescribed right in the legislation or a phrase that what is in official plans can be prescribed. We would prefer that what should be in official plans be actually in the legislation. This legislation would leave nothing defined as to what should be in an official plan; really very vague.
As you might expect, we are not in agreement with the "shall have regard to." I won't speak too long on that. Basically, we feel that it will not lead to consistent treatment across the province.
The reduction in response times: I believe that our member of our organization who spoke earlier has spoken very well on this point and I won't spend much time on it, just to say that this is a very sensitive point for all community associations and we're in full agreement that the response times, the change from 30 to 20, is something we will find it very difficult to live with. So we would suggest that you leave it at 30 in most cases.
We notice that in some cases information about such matters as appeal deadlines is no longer required in notices of decisions and rights to notices of appeal are denied to those who only speak or make submissions at public meetings. We feel that these are minor matters in a way, but in another way they take away from the rights of those people whose language is neither English nor French and who have less understanding of how municipal government works or who have no lawyer at their service. Organizations such as ours, as long as we continue to have people who are fairly knowledgeable from experience, are not so much affected, but we feel it's our duty to say something for those people for whom it's a new experience or who are less experienced in the whole process.
In our last submission on Bill 163, we asked for intervenor funding. I know we're not going to get that, but the cost of an appeal can financially cripple many community organizations. Therefore, we are rather frightened by the possible fact that not just a fee but the whole cost of an appeal from the committee of adjustment will be charged to the municipality, and what we don't know is -- apparently this bill doesn't give the municipality authority to charge community associations, but we're worried that maybe Bill 26 did. Obviously, this is to discourage appeals from the committee of adjustment to the OMB, but it puts a chill into us until we know whether it might be charged back to the person who actually wants to make the appeal.
As well as the decrease in response times which affect us directly, the decrease in response times for municipalities will likely be met by minimizing their often inadequate efforts to encourage public participation, again to our disadvantage. So we feel that you should look a little bit more carefully at the time you've given to municipalities. Some of them I think, particularly with official plan stuff, are just too short. I think it depends on the complexity. If it's a simple matter, no, they're not too short, but if it's a complex, big development, they're going to need more time to consult and negotiate, whatever. I would say you should look at those times and give them more flexibility. Dr Laughton has already mentioned that we have a system in Ottawa where we hope -- it seems to be working so far -- that communities get involved early. That reduces time for everybody. It makes the whole process faster, because if communities know early and the developer talks with them early, he knows what their concerns are, he can maybe adapt his plans to meet the problems that the community sees, and everybody wins. That's what we want to see.
We've given page and section references in appendix 1. We have some additional concerns in appendix 2.
One of things that we'd like to mention is that we'd like to see that instead of taking away the right of referral to the upper tier, what you should do is view the upper tier as a mechanism to mediate disputes. In other words, if there's a referral from an official plan, it would go to the upper tier and the upper tier would be given explicit direction to mediate disputes at that point and try and avoid going to the OMB.
The upper tier played that role with the Ottawa official plan to a certain extent, and then what happened after that? The remaining referrals: The city of Ottawa hired a mediator along with the OMB, and what happened? Sixty-four referrals went down to nothing. We ended up with a half-hour OMB hearing in January and there's supposed to be another -- I'm sure it'll be a small one and probably everything will be fixed before then -- in June.
I would say that mediation is the way to go to reduce expenses, and why don't you reflect that idea in the legislation?
Dr Laughton: I think we've run out of time.
Mrs Kempster: Okay. You can read the rest.
Mr Gerretsen: I'd like to underscore something I've been trying to tell the committee for the last couple of weeks, first of all the notion that at least three parties are involved in any kind of development process: the municipality, the developer and the general public. Unfortunately, the general public has been left out of this process more than before, with public meetings for subdivisions no longer necessary.
I totally agree with you. There seems to be this notion around that if you get the general public involved, it will only delay for everybody. I can tell you, as a former municipal politician, the exact opposite is true if it's handled in the correct way. I like your notion of mediation. Two or three other people have mentioned that before. After all, we can all learn from one another, and the developments you get in the end are usually a lot better if you get all the various viewpoints reflected in that development. It doesn't have to slow down the process. What really slows down the process quite often are administrative matters or time lags: the length of time a planning staff deals with something, council deals with it, the various ministries deal with it.
I really like the notion you're on. I urge you to keep up the work and keep telling the government that getting the general public involved in this process is a plus and doesn't detract from the whole planning process, because, after all, it's good communities we want to see at the end of the whole process.
I don't have a question. I just wanted to make that comment, because I think you make it extremely well in your brief. It's obviously worked well in your case.
Dr Laughton: The city in fact formally involved us as an organization in the mediation process, and many of the mediated agreements were our wording.
Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I was listening quite attentively to your concern that developers and municipalities might be all right to deal with Bill 20, but it's going to close the door on any other voluntary groups or individuals that might want to make their point, and the time frame is going to be shortened so much that they won't be able to get a voice. We'd hate to see it get to the point, as we've seen an incident in Ottawa, where people complain or protest and the Prime Minister grabs hold of them and chokes them.
Your fear seems to be that everybody else except for developers and municipal staff, municipalities, are going to be shut out of the process. I just wanted to know if you had a comment on that.
Mrs Kempster: The time lines certainly would tend to shut out the community associations, as was emphasized by the earlier brief. I didn't go into that because I felt they'd done a very good presentation that indicates the problems of the time lines. We have monthly meetings. We try and have major papers like this approved at our monthly meetings. The draft of this did go to our monthly meeting. We have a problem if it's less than 30 days.
Mr Carr: I want to pick up on what John was saying. You mentioned that there are the developers, the municipalities and then some of the public. I firmly believe that the municipalities, through their elected representatives, are the closest to the people, that there doesn't need to be these three but they can be two. I may be living in an ideal world, but I firmly believe that people who believe in the ideas you do can and should get involved in municipal politics. I ran because I got so upset and angry with what was happening at the provincial level. You have to be very careful because you might win, like I did, which may or may not be a good thing.
When you say there are these three groups, why can't we have some folks who believe in the ideas you do run -- most councils are part-time -- and get elected to get in there and make the changes? Why do we need to have these three groups of developers and municipalities and then the public? Why can't the public be closer to municipalities through their elected representatives? Why isn't that system working the way it should?
Dr Laughton: Why should you want to deprive the councillors of the advice of a huge body of people, in our case many of them very experienced professionals? I'm not a planner or a lawyer, but I've had to examine expert witnesses at OMB hearings on behalf of FCA, because we couldn't afford a lawyer. We've got all this expertise there. We meet with our councillors. In fact, many of the councillors in Ottawa are now holding regular area meetings with community associations.
Mr Carr: That's what I mean; that's what I'm getting at. They can and should be doing that. You're doing that. Why doesn't it work better, that we have your groups meeting with some of the councillors like that? If it's working, how can you say you don't have the input when you have these special meetings, groups meeting with councillors?
Mrs Kempster: We do have input, and you're right. Some former FCA members are currently members of either regional council or of city council. But we feel that sometimes councillors tend to listen to staff --
Mr Carr: So do provincial politicians.
Mr Gerretsen: That's the problem.
Mrs Kempster: We know that some councillors, once they get in there, take whatever staff says as gospel. We feel that it's very necessary that we speak up. Many of the councillors are glad we do. I would say often a fair majority is glad we do, because they get one point of view from staff and it's nice to have a countering point of view from the community, publicly given at a committee meeting. Many of them are in sympathy with our aims and they reflect what we see, but there are differing sections in the city, and some sections may want some things more than others.
We as a federation try to reflect the differing concerns of our different members, because we have members from quite a few areas of the city. We speak with a voice for more than one area, so the city tends to listen to us, as a federation, as reflecting a broader opinion than just one neighbourhood.
The Chair: Thank you both for the presentation. We appreciate your comments.
WETLANDS PRESERVATION GROUP OF WEST CARLETON
TRAILS OF DUNROBIN COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION
CONSTANCE AND BUCKHAM'S BAY COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION
The Chair: Our next presentation, after the false alarm last time, is the Wetlands Preservation Group. Good morning.
Dr Meg Sears: Thank you very much. I'm speaking this morning on behalf of three citizens' organizations, two community associations and the Wetlands Preservation Group within West Carleton. I've had involvements with all three in land use planning matters. I'll introduce myself to begin with. I've got a technical background, so how I landed in land use planning I'm still wondering.
Basically, I started becoming concerned about land use planning from an environmental perspective because I want to have a sustainable landscape. We all drink water, we all breathe air, and if we don't have an Ontario with all the right natural features coming together, we're going to end up in a sorry state financially and ecologically, from a health point of view, in many ways. I've been involved as a volunteer. On a provincial level, I was involved with the Sewell commission, made submissions for Bill 163, for the comprehensive policy statements, and I will prepare and submit a submission regarding the proposed policy statement as well.
I'm very concerned about groundwater. I drink water out of the ground. I live in a rural area where almost everybody is dependent upon groundwater, and I'm saying to you today that this is a really expensive sleeper. The patterns of rural development are polluting our groundwater now, and if we don't change things substantially, we are going to be up against incredible human health costs and incredible financial costs to put pipes zillions of miles, to disperse developments, or install communal systems -- something. Groundwater is a very expensive, sleeping issue right now, and I see in Bill 20 many changes which will put groundwater at risk.
In summary, I find the title of the act rather misleading. I find that it is an act which will serve to promote development, but I don't see that it's going to serve to protect the environment.
The Wetlands Preservation Group, Constance and Buckham's Bay Community Association and Trails of Dunrobin Community Association all ask that Bill 20 be substantially amended according to our recommendations and that the provincial policy statement be dropped for the present time.
The policy statement currently in place has been in place for less than a year. It's basically untried. There was a huge rush of development applications before it was put in place. It's a sound statement which was put together with incredible, exhaustive consultation over four years. I think the efforts to fix the implementation guidelines should continue because the implementation guidelines are so huge, but the policy statement should be given a chance to be tried and reviewed after five years. I realize you're not talking about the policy statements today, but they're so intimately connected, I had to make that comment.
First of all, I'd like to talk about the role of the province. Mr Hardeman was talking about making decisions at Queen's Park: "Queen's Park is too far away. We don't want decisions made at Queen's Park." That's the sort of thing you hear. Queen's Park should not be deciding whether you put the store on this corner or this corner. It shouldn't be deciding the details, and it doesn't decide the details.
However, unless you have clear direction from Queen's Park about the type of planning you want to have in Ontario, a vision of the structure for planning, if that isn't very clear from Queen's Park, the system doesn't work. A hundred-odd years ago, with the British North America Act, the provinces were given this responsibility to direct development in the provinces, and that responsibility, I see in Bill 20, the province isn't going far enough to do. With regard to the policy statements, the province should enunciate very clearly the provincial interests, and I think that's well done presently.
I'll just give you one quick example of the changes we're already anticipating, this new regime. In West Carleton, we're blessed -- or cursed, depending upon your point of view -- with a large number of provincially significant wetlands and also some locally significant wetlands. A large number of people belong to the Association of Rural Property Owners and so on, and they packed a council meeting last week. The council said: "The province no longer says we should look at this, so we're not going to consider locally significant wetlands at all when we're making decisions. We're going to sweep them under the carpet, ignore them." A couple of people in the room were saying, "These are locally significant," and they said, "Yes, but the policy statement doesn't say they encourage us to protect them, so we'll ignore them."
You've got to look at the present policy statement. It says "encourage to protect." That's pretty discretionary. Nevertheless, that was enough to make the council say, "We're going to look at them when we have a development application." Without that, they're going to be ignored. That means the groundwater recharge, the filtering, the flood protection, all those things, which are going to really affect other people who don't own the wetlands and will cost money to everybody, are being ignored because that direction is not there.
In order to have clear direction, we strongly suggest that we should stick with "be consistent with." You only need flexibility in one place in the system. You can either have this really ambiguous "have regard for" -- because it is ambiguous. Some councils say: "It means that we dust it twice a week. It stays on the shelf, but we'll look at it." But if you take it to the OMB -- and as a volunteer citizen, I've got a great deal of respect for the Ontario Municipal Board, but I really have better things to do with my time; I don't want to have to go there -- the Ontario Municipal Board gives considerable weight to provincial policy, and without this clarity of "be consistent with," then you end up with a huge discrepancy in application of policies.
"Be consistent with" I think is a really good way to go. If you want flexibility, put it in the policies, and there presently is flexibility in the policies. Where the province at the time thought there was something really important, it said "shall" or "must." If it was discretionary, it said "foster," "encourage." Those are flexible words. So put the flexibility in the policies, but make it so that everybody's singing from the same hymn-book.
We're also very concerned about the notion of public body. I realize that there are a lot of initiatives to reduce the provincial role in commenting and so on. This is something which right now, to my perception at any rate, is in a great deal of flux. We're trying to figure out how this is going to work. It's obvious even in the legislation that you really haven't figured out how it's going to work in the end, because you're saying, "Well, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing is going to be sort of a clearinghouse for all Ontario Municipal Board appeals and so on, unless that doesn't really work and we're going to ask somebody else to do it." There's that clause in the legislation which says that he or she may delegate the responsibility to somebody else.
I think the whole notion of changing the definition of "public body" is very premature. Figure out how it's going to work, but if you outlaw our present system, all you're going to do is really mess things up. Don't tie the hands of the people who are trying to make changes.
We're also concerned about the notion of having somebody looking over the shoulder of lower governments in terms of approval of official plans. This is something which I wasn't going to get into so much, but the presidents of various community associations were saying, "No, you've got to say this."
It is a fact of life that there are some people who get into municipal politics or provincial politics because they don't like the way it's working, but then there are an awful lot of people there who are in the real estate industry, who are in the development industry, and they do have a lot of ties and pulls. So having a second look by somebody at arm's length from -- I come from a small, rural place. Everybody knows one another, and it's difficult for the politicians to say no to the guy they used to take the hay off the field with and so on. Having an arm's-length second look is very, very important, and if the province doesn't do it, if the upper tier doesn't do it, the only people left are the citizens' groups, and this is too much to put on the shoulders of volunteer groups.
The second part of the planning regime, to my mind, is the official plan. Now, if the province wants to step back from day-to-day decision-making, it can only do that once there are really good official plans in place. Therefore, within the Planning Act and regulations, you really do have to have a definition of even what an official plan is and you must say the kinds of things that have to be in an official plan. Otherwise, official plans are going to be degraded over time into something that's a lot like a zoning bylaw but you can't take it to court.
Another concern regarding official plans is time frames. We've heard a lot about that. I'll add one more point to it. Presently there is a 180-day total start to finish time frame, and within that you can chop and divide as you please. Twenty days is much too short for citizens' groups, 30 days is barely workable, but the start to finish is really the important one for the developer who wants to put a shovel into the ground, and 180 days was put in place, I believe, because in rural areas, where you want to protect groundwater or other natural resources, you have to be able to groundproof. If somebody puts their application in in November, around here, anyway, you can't groundproof, and it'll be after the approvals are given that you realize, "No, no, this is not going to be workable."
There's nothing saying that if it's a small matter in the middle of the city where you don't have to groundproof and things like that, an efficient council or whatever can do it more quickly, but if you put a 90-day time frame in the act, then that pushes the councils, in order to avoid an OMB hearing -- because they're no more anxious to go to the OMB than the citizens -- to make ill-informed decisions. This is to everybody's detriment, and it will push people to the OMB.
One thing that's in the bill that we think is a great idea is for counties to have official plans.
Prematurity we've talked about, or other people have talked about.
The rezoning before official plan provisions are in place: This is putting the cart before the horse. If you haven't made the considerations that are necessary, I don't think it's appropriate for somebody to be giving a rezoning, because they're not doing it in good conscience.
We support direct appeal of official plans and amendments, and we support the proposed power of the OMB to examine other OP sections for review and action. We think that this is a recognition of a power that they actually already have.
To do with citizens' involvement, once again time lines. The public meetings and notice should be maintained for subdivisions and severances. If you don't have a public meeting for a plan of subdivision, then, as I've described in the brief, you're going to do everybody a great disservice. And this is where having the citizens involved will make planning work. Cutting the citizens out is going to give you bad development and a lot of delay.
Minor variances should ultimately go to the OMB.
It should not be necessary to submit a written response before a planning decision is made. If you make an oral submission, that should be sufficient.
Finally, we don't think that there should be a fee for Ontario Municipal Board appeals. I've been before the Ontario Municipal Board, I've helped citizens' groups prepare for it, and not once has it involved me personally. I think it's abhorrent that citizens' groups should be charged for upholding the public interest.
I'm sorry to rush through like that. There are a lot of proposals there, but I hope that you will consider them.
Mr Christopherson: I don't know that we'll have time for questions, but maybe a comment, Dr Sears. I think you've covered a lot of ground in a very short period of time and I appreciate it. We obviously in our party share your concerns. That's why we have the planning legislation that we now have. Unfortunately, it would seem that this government is intent on running roughshod over a lot of the protections.
Mr Baird: Oh. That hurts.
Mr Christopherson: Down, down, down.
Mr Murdoch: Well, if you're going to start talking like that, you're going to get some response.
Mr Christopherson: They plan to run roughshod over the rights and protections that are in there for citizens and communities, and I would suggest very strongly to you that what we better start doing is taking a look at what are going to be the indicators we can point to down the road that prove the arguments that you're making and that we make in terms of the damage this is all going to do, because we're going to have to find a way to raise public awareness down the road. I don't imagine they're going to back off too much of what they're going forward with. They're going to take care of their pals in the development industry and elsewhere, and all of us who care about planning and about citizen involvement are going to have to make sure that we can show the broader public that indeed the concerns we've raised now have actually become a reality so that these things can stay on the public agenda.
The problem with a lot of these issues is they're seen as matters that don't really involve the general public. I think you've articulated the fact that these very issues are key to decent planning, good communities and an overall balanced society, and it's just a crying shame that they aren't giving the current legislation an opportunity to work.
Mrs Barbara Fisher (Bruce): I'm a little bit perplexed. Do you believe in local decision-making or do you believe in the province enforcing the guideline? In your presentation you were sort of two ways. Looking over your shoulder was okay, but local decision-making was okay. I didn't quite understand which one.
Dr Sears: Well, it shouldn't be one or the other. Obviously, people are going to make decisions at the local level, but they must make them within a clear framework so that we have the same sorts of decisions made across the province. Otherwise, you end up with one municipality having fire sale environmental protection, for instance. They pollute their groundwater, but they do get a lot of short-term development. Without clear provincial guidance, then we lose out.
Mr Gerretsen: I'll just take 30 seconds. I totally agree with you that when we look at the process, which is what the act is all about, we should be looking at the provincial statements, its policy statements, as well. One without the other is kind of an empty process. Jean-Marc?
Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): I know that you had some concern. Why are you saying that Bill 20 would put the groundwater at risk?
Dr Sears: Because you can't groundproof. The time frame's too short. The "be consistent with," along with strong policies protecting groundwater, will help.
Mr Lalonde: But in the process that we have that is in place at the present time, those surveys or studies have to be done prior to going to approvals.
Dr Sears: Yes. Actually, the hydrogeological studies which are currently done for plans of subdivision in the rural areas I feel are woefully inadequate.
The Chair: Thank you, Dr Sears. We appreciate your taking the time to make a presentation before us today.
Dr Sears: I really hope that you're wrong, that I haven't just wasted my breath today, that they'll seriously consider my --
Mr Christopherson: I hope I'm wrong too, but I wouldn't bet on it.
Mr Gerretsen: We hope so too. Meg, keep putting the pressure on.
OTTAWA-CARLETON BOARD OF TRADE
The Chair: Our next presentation is from the Ottawa-Carleton Board of Trade. Good morning.
Mr Graham Bird: Good morning, Mr Chairman, how are you?
The Chair: I'm fine, thank you. We have 20 minutes for you to use as you see fit, divided between the presentation and question and answer time.
Mr Murdoch: John, when are you going to announce your leadership? You would bring a new perspective to the Liberal Party.
Mr Gerretsen: Will the Chair please bring the member to order. He's taking valuable time away from the presenter, who has some very important things to say. I hope it wasn't taken from his time.
Mr Bird: No, that's fine. I'm going to attempt to be brief. It's sort of a tradition of the board to act that way. May I extend a welcome to all of you to the Ottawa-Carleton region from the board of trade and hope that you'll come and visit us often. It's always interesting to see fellows from the greater part of this province come to the east end to see how it works. I trust our friends locally, John Baird and Bob, have introduced you to some of the good points around our great community. Hopefully we'll organize the rain next time and have a better weather approach for you.
I'll start by saying that our organization is the largest business organization in the Ottawa Valley. It represents about 700-plus businesses and probably 1,500 to 1,800 individuals, so it's a fairly sizeable organization for this neck of the woods and, as you can imagine, represents anybody from small business right through to the large and incredibly large high-tech operations that exist in this valley.
I think it's important to note before we get started that one of the cornerstones of the board is to ensure that our community provides the best quality of life possible, but in doing so, we look for the most cost-effective way to do so.
As a backdrop to this, this community is very much turning to and relying on the high-tech and communications fields and the burgeoning biosciences field. It's amazing. I think we've got 600 or 700 firms in that arena and new ones popping up daily that frankly are happening alongside the great Canadian success stories -- Newbridge, Corel, Northern Tel and so on.
I think this community, better than any in our history, has brought the point home to bear that time is of the essence and if they're not to the market fast, they miss the market and we miss the jobs and we miss the future. Yet to a person, they're very anxious that this valley retain the quality of life. So in that sort of mix, I guess they're looking for means and ways for us to preserve an appropriate environment, to make sure that this community is strong and clean and neat, and yet at the same time, if we can find an answer in a couple of seconds, why not do it rather than taking six or seven months in process. I think that's the central point, that we believe it important that all governments do everything to ensure that the process is not the product.
It's our feeling that in order to continue to provide jobs and economic growth through this area of the province, this region, which is the fourth largest in the country, with the largest number of high-tech firms in its midst, must have the tools and take the responsibility to plan and develop in such a way as to compete, not with itself or its immediate neighbours but with the Carolinas and the other high-tech centres of the world. We believe that, as with tax policy, development charge policy, transportation policy, our planning policies must make sense. If we are to be competitive, they must be product driven, not process driven. Frankly, for those of us like myself who work in this business, quicker to the product will keep us sane, which is something as individuals we're looking forward to.
On that, maybe I could take a second to make the point that I personally have been involved in the issues of planning for 15 or 18 years. I was a partner in a local engineering and planning firm. I went on to become the chair of the Ottawa planning committee. I have spent about 10 years with one of the largest development firms here and have been involved in all aspects of zoning, planning, environmental assessment, hysterical or historical analysis, federal land use, federal environmental work during those 10 years. So I think I come at this subject with some amount of personal knowledge and, frankly, commitment.
Something that I've watched over those 15 years is the amazing number of professionals in the industry who are, at the end of the day, residents of this community, very anxious that the products they put on the market and are involved in developing are consistent with the quality of life that we all enjoy and something we can leave our children with some pride at the end of the day. I've never found, by large part, people anxious to produce blights for the horizon or to make a mess of the environment. What I do find is a tremendous number of them driven insane by the process.
I guess some of us would suggest that in this region process is our product. Between the municipal level, the regional level, the provincial level and the federal level and the quasi-in-betweens, we've got enough process to keep us up late, if you can imagine setting out to deal on a project here in this region where you've got those levels of government or those systems to deal with.
We came to the point over the last couple of years and are very pleased to see that you're out rethinking and retooling and rejigging Bill 163. We noticed that the New Democrats' Bill 163, on which we were all attempting to partake in the consultative process or the dictate which effectively implements the Sewell commission's report, is not in everybody's interest except for those who like eternal process.
I recall one conversation with one of our region's best regional solicitors who said to me kind of jokingly one day, "Boy, when you start an application now, it'll be two or three terms of government before you come out the other end of it." And I said to him, "No, because quite frankly nobody's going to put the application in in the first place." No one can afford the time, the patience or anything else to deal with that kind of process any more and there's no financial company that I've run into that will ever back up or even think you're reasonable to stand in front of their board and explain to them, "If we start today, ladies and gentlemen, in 2005 we may, all things being considered, come out the other end with a solution that will house one of your new high-tech firms." And they've got to be on the market next week.
It was our opinion that Bill 163 is an interesting effort and it's completely out of control. We have no doubt that the administrators were well-intentioned, but we frankly believe this animal is a recipe for disaster. Perhaps there are two issues that stand out the most in this. One is the term "have regard to," which in the administrator's language means compliance with, and compliance with policies. We have no trouble with policies, but we have a bit of a belief that the view of both of these is from a certain window of the author of Bill 163 and not representing the community's view across this great province, or understanding the variance.
Terms are a peculiar thing in the bureaucratic world. That's what I've learned over the last 10 or 15 years. I'll give you an example. In this town, when the federal government gives you advice, you better take it or you'll be upsetting a lot of people and your project will go nowhere. So we applaud the idea that you're taking a good look at some of these terms and understand them in bureaucratese to make sure they in fact mean what we all think they mean. "Having regard for" being changed to "be consistent with" in our view is something extremely important to this whole exercise, so that in fact from community to community they can take a look at the policies and the new ones that we're going to develop -- and I applaud the expansion from the list I see -- and we can make use of these and make use of them in a relevant way in the communities that they are being tested.
It's again maybe a bit of a throw to my work, but I was concerned frankly how we'd achieve compliance, and that was the thing we kept asking as this exercise went on over the last couple of years. This came out as the thing the legislators see, and then I know that the planning departments and the engineers and all the rest of them get back into the bowels of the earth when they're debating whether or not you've met one of these policies.
And to our horror, out came the guidelines on how to use the policy, and I thought, holy Christ, if you can get through that -- and that's the driver's manual for this, this is something that can be amended or dealt with by the bureaucracies without your knowledge -- then I don't know that you'll ever come home. So what this may well mean is that you get stuck in an argument between the planning efforts here regionally and in Toronto, forever. Given that the system insists the province is in fact an authority or an agent, then those arguments go on without any end in sight, with no stop, and I don't think that's fair or appropriate. It certainly doesn't mean logic to my way of thinking.
I guess then, ladies and gentlemen, the board would like to, in that respect, give its support today to the Bill 20 initiative in its efforts to bring some reason to this process. The provincial policies will define the position of the province of Ontario in matters of environment, agriculture, heritage, resources and so on and so forth -- and believe it or not, we in the industry applaud that -- so that there is a clear definition and understanding of the stance of the various authorities and governments.
However, by delegating to the local municipality the responsibility to deal with the application it seems to us that it permits the variety of communities to control their own destiny, while respecting the differences that exist across this province.
It's understood that the province remains an interested party -- more language -- not an agent, so that in some instance where there is a magic clash against the interpretation of future policies, we can make use of the good and wise judgement of the OMB to discern who's right and who's wrong. It seems a very simple and straightforward method that everybody in the industry is accustomed to and can understand and work towards.
If I can then, I'll just say that while we've got these in this city, we also have a pile about that high from the region and a pile about that high from the city of Ottawa and from some of the other municipalities, and then the National Capital Commission throws in another land use policy that gets in on top of it, plus we then have the environmental matters that all seem to twist and twine. I realize the intricacies or the relations between this animal and the environmental act are not on the table today, but if you'll trust me, there's an awful lot of overlapping and difficulty in attempting to get those two animals to act concurrently and come out the other end of their approval process with some sense and maybe some day in the future, you might take a look at how those things overlap.
On a couple of minor points that I was asked to raise today, we appreciate that in the bill you delegate the authority to the municipality from the province for interpretation but, again, we've been blessed with a two-municipal level system here. You can do one of two things, in our mind: You can get rid of one of the levels or suggest that the regional level make sure that they in turn delegate down to the local municipalities. We have, as I'm sure you're aware, lots of kind of intergovernmental jealousies on who gets to do what and it would be appropriate to give that little magic nod that they should go ahead and delegate down.
I think that can easily be covered by the local municipalities making sure they're consistent with the official plan language and the policies set out there, so that there's again a check and balance, but at least one mechanism for us to deal with.
Finally, a couple of smaller points, one being the removal of the rights for minor variances decisions to the OMB. Given the size and complexity of some of our zoning bylaws here, I'd ask that you might take a look at that just to make sure that the combinations and permutations of requests to the board or who's against whom and why might in fact need the OMB as a bit of a backstop at some time.
We just ask you to take a second boo at that and go through the combinations and permutations of complaints. I don't think it's a big issue in terms of the total activity in front of the board. If I'm not mistaken, it's 2% or 3% or something of Ontario's activities.
I guess on another matter -- and it's just come to my attention in the last couple of days -- in the business of the apartments in homes and so on, rather than looking at some kind of a reaction clause that takes them back in time, I think there are a number of people who have been acting in accordance with those rules and have been working hard on applications. I'm not sure if it's quite fair to them to put a bullet in their operation retroactively. So you might consider some kind of a grandfather clause on that exercise for a couple of months.
Mr Baird: Grandfather, it's in there.
Mr Bird: Okay, I didn't realize that. Finally, if you'll permit me, I'd like to change my hat for one second. I'm co-chairing the initiative to get the Ottawa International Airport off the ground -- the authority off the ground -- and something that is of concern at that table is the wish and the look for a policy on airport zones. We've been busy talking to the ministry, frankly, each one of the burgeoning airport authorities has been in to see the ministry to see if there isn't some way where we could get a policy cooking that would help protect these airports from residential -- what else would come into play? -- day cares, hospitals, those kinds of uses that would obviously be in conflict with the use of the airport. We just need to look to Mississauga for how not to have something go on, I think. Given that the responsibility will fall in the laps of the local municipal types and that we don't have that kind of crown authority that the feds do in looking after airports, it might be wise counsel to reinforce the administration's work to come up some kind of an airport zone or the ability for a community to have something called an airport zone which would ring around the geography of an airport within certain geographic points.
At the moment, we've got some game going on about noise cones, and it depends on which expert you talk to as to just where that noise cone falls. All kinds of shenanigans occur with air conditioners and the types of structures and hiding behind trees and under berms, but at the end of the day, I witness that the tire marks and the barbecues still occur. I'd like to find some method to back that development ring off a bit from the airport so these very important economic generators of our future in this province aren't damaged accordingly by silly practices.
Ladies and gentlemen, that's it from our point of view. We thank you for giving us the time this morning and wish you all the best of luck in your deliberations.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Bird. With only a minute left -- no one around this table can even recite their home address in a minute, so we'll dispense with questions.
Mr Hoy: Include yourself.
The Chair: I'll include myself in that comment. Thank you for taking the time to make a presentation before us here today. We appreciate your comments.
Mr Bird: That's good planning on my side, then.
WEST END LEGAL SERVICES OF OTTAWA
The Chair: Our next group up is the West End Legal Services of Ottawa. Good morning, and welcome.
Ms Mary Garrett: Thank you. I'm sure I won't be using up the whole 20 minutes. My name is Mary Garrett. I'm with West End Legal Services. West End Legal Services is one of three community legal clinics in Ottawa that deal with poverty law. We do such cases as unemployment insurance, workers' compensation, immigration, some debtor-creditor, and landlord-tenant. In fact, 50% to 53% of our caseload is landlord-tenant, and that's why I'm going to be talking today just about the area of Bill 20 that responds to the apartments in homes. That's an area we're completely concerned about.
Before I get into the presentation, I want to state that in Ottawa we have several groups that give just information on landlord-tenant areas. Naturally, the three clinics do. A housing help gives information to landlords and tenants; rent control gives information to landlords and tenants; and the Federation of Ottawa-Carleton Tenants Associations provides information to tenants. We have also the Ottawa youth-student legal aid. I say that because I'm going to give a statistic I found out only last night, so it's not in my report: In January, that is, last month, our clinic took 117 calls from tenants, just to give answers about landlord-tenant, not files. That, you have to know, is 117 we did, not counting all the other information provided by the other groups that give information in Ottawa.
Times in Ottawa, as throughout the province, are getting extremely bad for low-income tenants. It's becoming critical. That's just a little background before I get into my presentation, and from here on I'll be reading it.
On January 25, 1995, I came before the standing committee to discuss Bill 120 as it related to apartments in houses. Just as a side note, this presentation was fairly easy to provide, because I haven't even had a chance to file the brief we made the last time, the one you're taking away from us.
At that time, I explained on behalf of West End Legal Services why it was essential that Bill 120 be passed. I explained what our office experienced over the 13 years we had been in existence by many examples that supported the passage of Bill 120, examples that showed the need for more decent, affordable housing, examples of desperate people in need of housing, examples that showed some people would become irresponsible landlords unless forced by regulations to do otherwise. A copy of our brief to Bill 120 is attached to this at the back.
Two years later, these problems have not gone away. If anything, they have increased. Cuts to social services and family benefits have made desperate people more desperate. I have to tell two to three families each day that there's nothing I can do for them. They just can't afford the rents, and there's no place where the rent will be affordable.
I am only one of four people in our clinic who have to give such advice, and our clinic is only one of four in Ottawa that give that advice. These problems will only accelerate at a horrendous rate in the future if the government carries through with its future threats to get rid of rent controls in favour of the tenant protection act, fast-track evictions and the corrosion of social housing in this province. If Bill 20 is passed, it will eliminate a stock of affordable housing that is needed in today's economic market.
Before we proceed, we should examine who this bill affects. Who would want to put an apartment in their home? In 1994, when Jackie Holzman, mayor of Ottawa, appeared before the standing committee on Bill 120, she stated that there were no basement apartments in her neighbourhood. I do not doubt this. Who would go to the expense of living in an affluent neighbourhood and take in boarders to make an extra buck? It would be simpler to move to a less affluent neighbourhood where costs are not so high.
The truth is that one opens their home to strangers for a need. Usually, that is a financial need. This could be to help a young couple share the cost of a first home or seniors to cope with the higher expense to keep the home they raised their family in. Possibly, it could help a newly unemployed civil servant pay for mortgage payments while on UI. Few will convert their homes into apartments for the sheer joy of having strangers invade their privacy.
Who would rent an apartment in a home? Since these apartments are usually one-bedroom or bachelor apartments, they are rented by one or two people, such as a young couple starting out, seniors, singles or single parents with one child. They are people with little choice. Why would anybody want to rent a place with the landlord so close when they could rent a high-rise, a town house complex or a single-family dwelling? Usually, these are people with little money, such as people on social services or a pension, people who need affordable housing and have not been able to find it in the social housing field because the waiting lists are too long.
The combined waiting list for Ottawa-Carleton Housing and City Living -- that's the city of Ottawa non-profit housing -- was 8,531 in December 1995. This does not include those people on waiting lists for subsidized units in cooperative housing units or non-profit housing communities.
We have listened recently to government rhetoric regarding their concern for tenants and recent communication on government's recommended changes to the Rent Control Act regulations. The paper stated they were prepared to replace rent control with the tenant protection act. We have been informed by Gary Guzzo, an Ottawa Conservative MPP, that the dismantling of public housing will be done in a "tenant-friendly" manner. People who represent tenants are having problems believing this concern is true, particulary when the tenant protection act was announced at the same time as the government proposed the changes to regulations in rent control, regulation changes that would make it easier for landlords to increase rents and harder for tenants to get a rent decrease. We have a hard time conceiving of how the elimination of a rental unit on a home where there is a financial need could be done in a tenant-friendly manner. If the government is concerned with being tenant-friendly and protecting tenants, it should not take away the small portion of affordable housing for people at the bottom of the financial ladder.
Everything we have heard from government since July, either in the media, in correspondence or at meetings, leads us to believe that this government believes the future of housing is in the private market; that if we eliminate rent controls, the private market will provide more units; that if we eliminate the rent-geared-to-income system for rent subsidies, the private market will build more units; that if we get out of housing, the private market will take over and, yes, provide more units. We do not believe this, but we must believe the government does. Then why is the government using this legislative change to stop the private market from providing some of the affordable units that will also benefit those very small landlords?
If the government is concerned with encouraging the private market to develop and provide the needed housing stock, do not use this bill to take away the income from the homeowners who need this income to make the mortgage payments and pay property taxes. Do not prevent this group of small landlords from providing this stock the government has promised us.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to say that.
Mr Chiarelli: Mary, thank you for coming and making a presentation. I know of the work you do in the clinic because it is in my riding, and I certainly appreciate that. You may also be aware of the fact that I opposed the apartments in basements legislation when it came forward last time, and I still do. On the other hand, I also support the notion of housing intensification. One of the objections to apartments in basements is that it's basically zoning the province from Queen's Park and very significantly takes away a lot of the planning component of the local level. Certainly people in Ottawa West, by a survey I did, support that notion.
Why would not you agree to planning policies which would require intensification policies in official plans, and that it be strictly enforced by the province so it can be done where appropriate, where services are appropriate, where there's more need, particularly in areas such as Ottawa-Carleton or Metropolitan Toronto, very large municipalities where it may be more appropriate in one area than another area? If there is an appropriate housing intensification policy without rezoning the whole province, would that not go a long way to achieving your goals?
I don't disagree with your goal of creating affordable apartment units in designated areas, but the means to do it -- simply rezoning the whole province and abolishing single-family zones across the province -- is really offensive to a lot of people, certainly to a lot of people in Ottawa West, because over 70% said they did not support that type of carte blanche initiative by the government.
Ms Garrett: It's what we have now, and as long as we have something in place that will take the need, we have to do it. If you can come up with a better way of finding affordable housing in this province, God bless you, but don't take away what we've got until you've got something else there to replace it. We can't lose housing stock for a hope that some day, God willing, there'll be a house there. Too many people are going to suffer waiting for that. Give us another bill that's going to start tomorrow, and then you've got my blessings to take this one away.
Mr Chiarelli: But do you not see that it undermines the whole municipal planning process in terms of availability of services in a designated area? For example, on street X anywhere in the city of Ottawa or the regional municipality of Ottawa-Carleton, every single home conceivably could be duplexed -- not small apartments but 50-50; totally duplexed -- with parking problems, there could be servicing problems, there could be recreational problems, a whole host of things. What the present law, which the NDP passed, did was totally undermine that whole local planning process, and that's why people strenuously opposed it and they say both parties --
Ms Garrett: I would rather you ask that question to the hundreds of ladies who are sitting in one room with their three children in shelters waiting to find an apartment to move into.
Mr Chiarelli: I'm not sure they're being accommodated in basement apartments.
Ms Garrett: That's not the best and I've argued with the NDP that it wasn't the solution to affordable housing, but it is some affordable housing. We have people living in it now, some people who are living in it waiting for the property standards bylaws to come into effect.
Mr Chiarelli: If we had a municipality that could sit down and designate those areas of a municipality where they feel it's appropriate and needed, do you not think that would be a reasonable approach?
Ms Garrett: Yes, but "if" hasn't happened yet and "if" isn't going to put a room over a child's head in the middle of winter in Ottawa.
Mr Chiarelli: We're looking at "ifs" now because we're considering legislation.
Ms Garrett: I'm saying right now we have the legislation. Keep it until you find something better.
Mr Christopherson: I was struck by the fact that you note there are over 8,500 people currently on the combined waiting list for affordable housing.
I stand back and look at what this government has done so far, particularly as it affects the poor and those who are less well off in our province in terms of the 22% cut to social services support payments, at the fact that they're about to implement or force municipalities to implement major increases in user fees. That's going to have a major impact.
They have moved towards eliminating non-profit housing. I know in my community of Hamilton they cancelled thousands of units; that will not happen now. We know rent control will be under attack and this business of a tenant protection act is just another sham in terms of the government playing games with the name of their bill, and doing the opposite, quite frankly, in the legislation.
We have a sense that we're moving quickly towards a two-tier health care system, that there's going to be deterioration of education, just such an impact on the standard of living of people who are already very vulnerable.
Assuming this 8,500 number is not about to go down -- if anything, it's going to go up as a result of the issues I've raised -- and now there will be fewer opportunities for people to find affordable housing through yet another move in this piece of legislation to deny secondary units in houses -- I also assume that even your funding in terms of you as an organization trying to help people could be under attack; certainly, we know the ability for legal aid may not be there for a lot of folks. With all of that, can I ask you, what do you think is going to happen to these people?
Ms Garrett: As much as I hate to say it, what I think is going to happen is that we're going to have two and three families moving into one-family units, or two and three families moving into two-bedroom apartments. What's going to happen, despite what the Conservative government is saying, that all of these changes will encourage the building market, is that we're going to have a lot of empty units because people can't afford them and the only way people are going to survive is by bunching up into units that are too small.
It will be unhealthy. It'll be dangerous. There will be fire hazards, health hazards. It's not going to help the economy at all. With the disappearance of rent control, which the government has promised us will happen, rents are going to go to the cost of two to three shelter components under social services. That's how high landlords are going to be able to raise rents because they can squeeze more people in.
Mr Christopherson: Would you agree or not that it's fair to say that at the end of the day, the policies this government is initiating will have the opposite effect of what they claim they're trying to do, and that is, if you're right, with that many people living in homes that weren't initially built under regulation to house that many people, they are going to become a dangerous situation that will affect neighbourhoods, that will affect communities and that we'll see a deterioration of not only the quality of life within those individual family units, but in those homes and on those streets and in those communities? At the end of the day, do you think that ultimately we're going to be better off or worse off as a society because of these initiatives?
Ms Garrett: Definitely worse off.
Mr Galt: As you were expressing all the numbers of people looking for apartments, what went through my mind was the number of phone calls I get to my riding from landlords who have had their apartments or homes that they've rented out trashed by tenants, and the stories are very sad and I've received a lot of those. Obviously, we do not have a proper balance between controls, whatever, between landlords and tenants. I notice in your second paragraph you make reference to Bill 163, and if anything, it has increased the problems for people finding apartments, finding places to live. So obviously we're not going ahead in the right direction with some of the things that are out there.
Mr Gerretsen: On a point of order, Mr Chair: What Dr Galt is talking about has got to do with the Landlord and Tenant Act. It's got nothing to do with this act.
Mr Galt: Do I have the floor or does he?
The Chair: Mr Gerretsen, that's not a point of order, and I've seen similar ramblings from all three parties.
Mr Galt: Thank you very much.
Mr Baird: I object to your characterization as rambling.
The Chair: Dr Galt has the floor.
Mr Christopherson: Continue to ramble, please.
Mr Galt: Do we start the clock again?
Mr Baird: I object to your characterization that Dr Galt is rambling.
Mr Galt: Would you not agree that with the process we've had in place we've been losing housing units, and that if we get rid of this complicated process and get the housing market moving again, people will be moving from apartments into these homes and there'll be apartments left, the rates will come down and there'll be more apartments available for the people you're concerned about?
Ms Garrett: Do I agree with that under the present government policy? I think the Landlord and Tenant Act has favoured landlords. If the landlord would take the time, the effort and the care to learn the job of being a landlord, my opinion is that 90% of the ones that are having problems would not have problems.
Unfortunately, in the province of Ontario, anybody who's got a thick pocket can become a landlord, whether or not they know what they're doing, whether or not they have the smarts or whether or not they care about being honest about the job they do. So a landlord goes in, puts inferior maintenance into their dwelling, they don't care what they're doing, they treat the tenant like they're a bunch of garbage, and they get surprised there's a problem with their apartment? They don't obey the law.
One of things we have in Ottawa-Carleton, and I wasn't planning on doing this because we weren't into landlord and tenant, is that we have a problem in Ottawa-Carleton that's called landlord and tenant duty counsel. It's the only one we have of its kind in the province. We have a clinic that appears every motions day on landlord and tenant so that we can represent unrepresented tenants at that time. We see a lot of cases where tenants come in and a lot of the problem is just that the landlords do not know how to be landlords. They don't know what the law is, they don't know what they're supposed to do and when they are finally forced to do maintenance, they do it shabbily.
Mr Galt: You're telling me that the problem with these homes and these apartments being trashed is the landlords' problem?
Ms Garrett: In some of the cases. I'm not saying that 100% of tenants are wonderful, but I'm saying that in the majority of cases that come across my desk or that come across duty counsel when I'm doing it are because a lot of the landlords don't know what they're supposed to be doing.
Mr Galt: And you hear the landlord's side?
Ms Garrett: I hear the landlord's side. I have had a few cases, maybe 5% where I've had to tell the tenants they were in the wrong and the tenants had to pay retribution to the landlord, but the majority of the cases that come across our desk are from the landlord's abuse.
The Chair: Thank you very much for taking the time to make a presentation before us. We appreciate it.
CITY OF OTTAWA
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from the city of Ottawa, Her Worship Mayor Jacquelin Holzman is presenting. Good morning.
Mrs Jacquelin Holzman: Good morning. I've invited some of our staff to be here. They're here to advise me. We have our commissioner of economic development and planning, Jim Sevigny; John Moser, who is a director of planning; and Larry Paquette, section head of bylaw drafting.
First of all, I wanted to thank you for hosting a hearing here in the city which enables myself and my colleagues from Ottawa-Carleton to make a presentation on behalf of our area. I have a written brief which I've submitted to you. I also chaired a city committee that heard from the public on this bill as well. So we believe in public participation. We were very pleased to hear from the public. Many of them have presented to you already and some I see are going to be presenting later this afternoon.
I want to say at the outset that in the main the city of Ottawa supports the initiatives of Bill 20. They streamline the planning process without loss of public participation and they complement ongoing initiatives by the city of Ottawa to review our own development approval processes.
I'll speak first to the proposed amendments to the Planning Act and conclude with a few comments on the proposed amendments to other acts. I refer you to appendix 1 attached to this presentation for a complete list of the city of Ottawa's recommendations on Bill 20.
The amendments to the Planning Act: As I previously stated, the city of Ottawa supports the initiatives of Bill 20. The bill facilitates decision-making at the municipal level, the closest level to the people who are directly affected by the planning process. The city of Ottawa supports the flexibility being provided by the "shall have regard to" amendment. The "shall have regard to" wording is preferable because it is a recognized legal term that gives municipalities a versatile tool in interpreting provincial policy statements.
The city of Ottawa supports the repeal of the apartments-in-homes provisions, as this is a matter appropriately addressed by the municipality. Under the previous government, I presented the city's views on the apartments-in-houses legislation at the time. At that time, the city of Ottawa was also opposed to the implementing of that piece of legislation. With the repeal of the apartments-in-houses provisions coinciding with the date of introduction of the bill, the city of Ottawa is of the view that the established rights provision should be revised.
You will hear from people and we have heard from people and we are aware of a number of cases where individuals were proceeding in good faith, even though it was legislation the city of Ottawa did not support and I personally did not support, but in good faith there were people who were proceeding with plans to create apartments in houses before the introduction of the bill, but had not obtained building permits and therefore did not quality for the grandfathering provided by the bill.
We suggest consideration be given to amending the grandfathering provisions to allow the creation or alteration of houses with two units where, prior to the introduction of the new legislation, an application had been made for development approval such as rezoning, committee of adjustment, site plan control or building permit, or where the proponent had otherwise declared a serious intention to develop in accordance with the Residents' Rights Act. As I say, you're going to hear from people on that one today and we believe they should be accommodated.
The city of Ottawa supports the proposed amendments dealing with appeals of decisions on official plans, zoning bylaws, interim control bylaws and variances and permissions by public bodies, and the elimination of the right of public bodies to request an extension of time to comment on a zoning bylaw amendment application. These amendments will streamline the process, we believe, without unduly affecting the rights of any of the stakeholders.
The ability of local municipalities to approve their own official plans and official plan amendments is another amendment that we support. Issues of local significance do not need to be debated and approved at the region, and approval authority at the local level should result in more timely approvals since it will avoid the additional three- to four-month process required at the region. If you'd been here for the hearings on Bill 26, I would have been able to tell you why it's necessary to make changes to the regional municipalities and the municipalities under that, to enable one level of government. But that's for another hearing. We do believe, though, that once it's been approved at the city, it should not be debated and approved at the region. This will have the added advantage of enabling zoning bylaws which are dependent upon the approval of official plan amendments to come into force immediately upon local council decisions in the case of uncontested official plan amendments.
While the change to the minor variance process is one of the more profound changes and is one which will require careful consideration by council, the city supports the options being presented in so far as the committee of adjustment is concerned. The options do enable decision-making at the local level. However, it is suggested that consideration be given to providing a right of appeal to city council even when a member of city council sits on the committee of adjustment.
With respect to the proposed amendments to the zoning process, the city supports the amendment relating to the submission of prescribed information and material. This amendment will enable the city to establish clear submission requirements for the benefit of all stakeholders and will provide a clear definition of the commencement of the time frame to trigger the right of appeal. Furthermore, the city of Ottawa supports the amendments relating to the public bringing their concerns to council early in the process. This reinforces the principle of preconsultation, which is a cornerstone of our development approval process. The city of Ottawa supports the elimination of the requirement to hold a public meeting for subdivision approvals. The elimination of that requirement will tend to streamline the process, again without unduly affecting the rights of the stakeholders.
We also support the amendment assigning the authority to pass bylaws exempting lands from part lot control to the city without the need for regional approval if the city has been delegated subdivision approval authority by the region; again, two levels of government do not streamline anything. It is appropriate that the rules applicable to bylaws exempting lands from part lot control be consistent with those applicable to subdivision.
The city of Ottawa does, however, have certain concerns with the proposed legislation which we feel warrant further consideration. For example, the removal of the power of the Ontario Municipal Board to dismiss matters on the basis of prematurity because the necessary public water, sewage or road services are not available within a reasonable time would place additional pressure on municipalities to extend services to raw land, because it has been designated in official plans, zoned and subdivided, at the expense of programs aimed at achieving intensification and efficient utilization of existing serviced land prior to expansion into non-serviced areas. The city suggests the province amend Bill 20 to allow municipalities to enter into servicing agreements. The city believes it is particularly important to be able to enter into agreements with development proponents regarding the provision of services concurrent with requests for increased density, where additional services are required. Such requests for development through intensification may result in increased demands on service capacities and the city should be able to respond to these demands.
Another example of an area that might be given further consideration is the approval time frames. While the city of Ottawa does support many of the proposed time lines, there are instances where the city of Ottawa does have a concern as it relates to our ability to solicit, act upon and resolve input from the public to official plans and official plan amendments. Only the most straightforward amendments can be dealt with under the time frames established by Bill 20, in our opinion. For example, given that many of the official plan amendments are of a complex or controversial nature, we are concerned that the Bill 20 time frame does not allow the city to undertake its traditional public participation processes or properly resolve issues. We believe the province should amend Bill 20 to enable municipalities to adopt, by bylaw, an alternative process to the time lines set out in the act. We believe that this should be the case, provided that they do not hamper the raison d'être for the bill, which is, "An Act to promote economic growth and protect the environment...." We must allow public participation, but we believe that it can be accommodated.
Another area where further consideration is warranted is the removal of the provisions of the act allowing zoning bylaws to prohibit all uses or classes of buildings on land within significant natural and cultural heritage features. While normally the city does allow uses which are compatible with significant natural and cultural heritage features, the option of prohibiting all uses should continue.
Just a few words about amendments to other acts:
The city of Ottawa supports the amendments to the Assessment Act. It's appropriate that the legislation allow other public and private sectors access to the detailed property descriptions component of the planning data file.
The city of Ottawa supports the amendments to the Development Charges Act and the Municipal Act, as they are appropriate pending the comprehensive review of the act to take place in 1996.
As for amendments to the Municipal Act relating to the registration of apartments in houses, while the ability to require the registration of apartments in houses is supported, the registration system does not appear to provide a benefit to the city of Ottawa.
The amendments to the Ontario Heritage Act are also supported. The amendments appear reasonable and cost-effective, and the opportunity for a pre-hearing conference prior to Conservation Review Board hearings is welcomed as it will tend to facilitate the resolution of disputes.
Mr Chairman, members of the hearing and my own representative at Queen's Park, this concludes my presentation on behalf of all members of city council and indeed the public who are in this area who will be presenting to you today. I thank you for your attention. As I stated, the full report, including the motions and those who voted yea and nay etc, are there for your perusal.
Mr Christopherson: I'd like to draw your attention to your comments on page 5, where you talk about your concern about having the time to "solicit, act upon and resolve input from the public...." We had a deputation earlier from a group of your constituents who said -- and they're directing this to the government obviously -- "If you take away our time, you take away our voice," their concern being the obvious, that if they don't have enough time to review and to dissect things -- much as we found with Bill 26 where people didn't have the time they needed to look at the proposed legislation or the proposed initiative by government -- then in effect they're not being given an opportunity to participate. Would you agree with that kind of a quote?
Mrs Holzman: Not at all; I would never agree with anything unless I saw the specifics. We pride ourselves on a very extensive public participation process. We put up the biggest signs that we can find in both languages to indicate when something is happening in a neighbourhood. We circulate information. We make information available in a timely fashion. From time to time, people aren't aware of it because they don't realize that it affects them until somebody tells them. However, our councillors are out there in the community constantly, and they make sure that their constituents know what's going on in their area. When I was a councillor I did the same thing, and as the mayor I make sure that information is available.
If there were some specifics, I would be pleased to hear from them. It all boils down to many people think that politicians don't hear because we don't amend whatever it is we're dealing with to reflect their views. We have heard, we have listened, but sometimes we don't agree. So if there are some specifics, I would be glad to follow it up for you -- specific applications or reports or whatever.
Mr Bruce Smith (Middlesex): If I might follow up on that comment that my colleague made, it was with interest that on page 14 in the appendix you sort of draw some summary conclusions with respect to the public consultation. It suggests to me -- and if I'm misunderstanding this, please let me know -- that irrespective of shortened time frames, in all likelihood applications based on their merit, whether good or bad, may take a longer period of time, so whether we're shortening them or not, that doesn't suggest to me in the context of what you've presented here that you're concerned that good planning decisions might not arise from that. Am I reading that correctly, when you're making sort of that summary comment there?
Mrs Holzman: In my opinion, and from my experience, council does its best to make good planning decisions. Sometimes the good planning decisions that the politicians make, no matter how much time they have, do not reflect what the applicant wanted or what the objecting people in the area might be putting forward. But ultimately, council believes it's making good planning decisions, and whether it's in a short period of time or a prolonged period of time, council feels they make good planning decisions.
Mr Smith: You quickly, or in an abbreviated sense, alluded to the Development Charges Act. Last week at Queen's Park we received a submission from a consultant who has prepared a number of -- I think it was about 150 different -- development charges bylaws across the province. He expressed a view that the transitional provisions in Bill 20 are hamstringing you a little bit in terms of how to deal with development charges. Is that a concern you share with respect to what we've identified?
Mrs Holzman: Our city council took the decision that we were going to eliminate development charges because we wanted to encourage the development industry, the construction industry. So we've eliminated development charges, both for residential and commercial and industrial, because at this period of time in the city's history it's more important to create the jobs and get some development activity taking place. That's how we've dealt with it at this time. If you want to go into specifics to the act, I would be glad to, but that's what we've done at this time.
Mr Gerretsen: Just to follow up on that point, you did that because of the development pressures and because of what's happening in the economy etc. You didn't need Queen's Park, in effect, to tell you that you couldn't raise the development charges, which is what this law is saying. You didn't need that kind of extra push from them; you did it on your own.
Mrs Holzman: We didn't need Queen's Park to permit us to eliminate them. Is your question to me, do we believe that Queen's Park has to say whether we can raise them or not? Is this what the question is?
Mr Gerretsen: That's right. That's my question. I mean, the municipalities are to be more autonomous according to Queen's Park, and yet they're saying in the Development Charges Act that you can't increase them any more than what you have right now, for whatever reason. But I'm saying -- I totally agree with you -- that municipalities, through economic forces of supply and demand etc, will determine whether or not they should be high or low.
But I'd like to raise another issue with you for just a moment, and that deals with the public meeting process as far as subdivisions are concerned. It seems to me that a lot of different municipalities require different methods of -- you know, when land is being rezoned and OP amendments are done, some municipalities require a great amount of detail and some don't. I'm a former municipal politician as well and I've worked in the development industry. It seems to me that only then do the people really know what is being proposed for that land. To sort of talk in blobs in official plans and to a certain extent in zoning changes as well doesn't really give people a complete picture as to how that subdivision's going to be laid out, where the parkland's going to be, where the medium density is going to be -- this, that and the other thing. What is wrong with having a public meeting? I'm sure that your municipality probably would in any event, but what's wrong with legislating that in the act?
Mrs Holzman: Well, first of all, zoning is the vehicle that we use. But I'm going to turn this over to Mr Moser, the director of planning, if you want to know exactly what we do, because we have a very good process.
Mr John Moser: From our perspective, in the city of Ottawa we don't do very may subdivisions because we're already pretty well built up, but certainly if we do subdivisions, it's usually in the context of having a rezoning application. We do the subdivision at the same time, so we roll it all together and then we do have a process that --
Mr Gerretsen: But not all municipalities do that; some do the rezoning first. You don't actually see the detail until a subdivision is done.
Mr Moser: Fair enough. But we tend to do it simultaneously.
Mrs Holzman: I'm only the mayor of the city of Ottawa, not all the municipalities.
The Chair: Thank you very much, your worship and your staff. I appreciate you taking time to make a presentation before us here today.
TOWNSHIP OF CUMBERLAND
The Chair: Our final presentation of the morning will be from the township of Cumberland. Good morning.
Mr Brian Coburn: My name is Brian Coburn. I am the mayor of the municipality of Cumberland. We're in a partnership and sharing format in Cumberland, so I want to share some of my time with Mr Peter Vice.
First of all, I'd like to compliment the government in taking the initiative to revamp the act and doing it in an expedient manner. We certainly agree with the principles that are stated in the policy statement.
We support the reinstatement of the requirement that planning decisions "have regard to" provincial policy statements.
We welcome the reduction in the time line for adoption and approval of OP amendments from 345 days to 195 days. If there's not a commitment to timeliness, then there will not be a commitment to ensure that the process works; rather, excuses, legal wrangling and, in a lot of cases, nonsense will take over the agenda and the process will never work. The desire to promote efficient development and land use will be hijacked by those who wish to frustrate the process.
Similarly, the desire to reduce the approval time line for draft plan of subdivision applications from 180 to 90 days and consent applications from 90 to 60 days is welcomed.
I'd also like to point out to the committee that it is important that various ministries give explicit direction to their staff who are involved in the approvals process to act in a timely and expedient manner. In the past, all too often ministry staff liked to let you know they were the boss and simply didn't care how long you waited for them to respond to circulation. It is my belief that you lay the rules and you also have the responsibility to direct your respective staff to respond promptly and get rid of the "When I get time" attitude. I would like to point out there are some excellent individuals in some ministries who do the utmost to fulfil their responsibilities; however, their exceptional efforts are overshadowed by some provincial employees who are in desperate need of an attitude adjustment.
I'd just like to give you an example: Cumberland is one of the fastest-growing municipalities in the entire country. In 1988, we started the process to get official plan approval in Cumberland and at the region. I'd like to let you know that I haven't got a damn house built there yet. We spent over $2 million in the process -- study after study after study -- thanks to various ministries diddling around, uncertainty and -- I don't know if any of you have ever sat in on some of these situations where you're dealing with staff and say, "Oh, wouldn't this be a good idea to have checked?" "It might. Good, you're right, John. Let's go and check this too. And maybe you might want to have a look at that while you're doing it." It goes on and on and on. There never seems to be an agenda, there never seems to be a desire to get to the end of the day and stay focused on the goal of what we're all trying to do.
Turning now to the policy statement under section 1.1.2., subsections (a) and (g) deal with the requirements relating to the provision of infrastructure and services. Subsection (a) indicates that growth should "avoid the need for unnecessary and/or uneconomical expansion of services and infrastructure." Subsection (g) requires that land uses and densities "are appropriate to the type of servicing which is planned or available." These two subsections are somewhat unclear. It's not really known how "unnecessary" will be determined in (a) or how "planned or available" will be addressed in (g). It appears that these requirements suggest that those areas where services currently exist will get more growth and areas which require additional services may, just by default, be ruled out.
The overall intent for cost-effective growth is good and this policy should be clear in its intention to encourage this without ruling out alternative means for achieving this goal.
What we mean by that is that there may have been rules or criteria laid down in previous years, 10 or 15 years ago, and then you come to today where the economics have changed, and that may not suit and it may not be economical to continue on that path but rather a new direction taken.
Clause 1.1.3(g) refers to the sensitive land uses being buffered and/or separated from each other. Sensitive uses, such as a sewage treatment facility, industries, aggregate activities etc, have traditionally been separated from uses such as residential development. Instead of buffered and separated from each other, maybe you would consider revising it to indicate that such uses should be separated from dissimilar uses, and that then becomes a local issue that can really be dealt with through the public process.
Under section 1.2 of housing, clause (b) requires that a three-year supply of residential units be draft approved or registered at any point in time. We believe this should be revised to include lands which can be readily serviced and not just those already approved. The current practice of the development industry is not to carry large draft approved subdivisions because of the tax implications. You go broke waiting on these things to happen. This has been brought forward to government after government after government. Will somebody please move along and do something about it? Small phases are draft approved in order to satisfy the annual needs. In fact, the tax implications in draft approved subdivisions should be investigated and changed to stimulate development. Right now it's a significant detriment.
Under definitions, maybe you could take a look at "institutional." It's confusing and it's unclear. Maybe somebody can explain it to me, what it really means. It's a good definition, but I don't think it applies appropriately to this document.
During the preparation of official plans there must be regard for the provincial policy which helps to mould and shape the official plan. Absolutely. However, after the approval of the official plan, that should be the guiding document. We don't want to go through another process. We'll look at the official plan, "We'd better go back and have another five or six meetings to look at the policy that's laid down." The whole document was determined as a result of the policy. That may help streamline the process.
I would like to emphasize as well the importance of laying out guidelines for implementation of the policies in a timely and expedient fashion. In fact, if you practice the same due diligence with the guidelines as you are with implementing the policy, then I don't foresee any problems. I'm sure that must be ongoing. It will dovetail right into this, because if you approve this and then we fiddle around trying to get guidelines for the next 12 months, we're going to be in a real quagmire.
I'd like to thank you very much for giving this opportunity to address the committee. I would ask that all of you, it doesn't matter which party, please stay focused and determined to improve the process. We owe it to the people of Ontario. They really want to go to work.
Mr Peter Vice: Firstly, by way of background, I'm with the law firm of Vice and Hunter. I was called to the bar the same year as Bob Chiarelli. That's how old I am.
Mr Carr: Wow. You both look young.
Mr Vice: And I can tell you that I have practised in this field now for 27 years. I also teach the community planning course at Ottawa U law school, and our firm has acted for just about every municipality within the region and eastern Ontario over my career. We have numerous retainers from municipalities at the present time. We also act for the development community and at times for community groups. So we're pretty well-rounded.
Firstly, let me say to members of all parties I support everything that my friend the mayor of Cumberland has said. I think he hit a lot of the points right on.
Mr Gerretsen: Do you represent the municipality?
Mr Vice: One of the municipalities I haven't acted for, Mr Gerretsen, is Kingston, so you can take it back and -- but I did train, when I was at the city of Ottawa legal department, your present solicitor, Mr Jackson.
Having said that, I support everything that my friend Mayor Coburn has said with regard to moving this on, and I've been through just about every one, since 1971, of the amendments we've seen to the Planning Act, so I do congratulate you very generally on all of the matters that have been amended, save and except for two particular ones that I want to address.
The first one is the way minor variances are dealt with and the practical problems that can occur if you take away from a proponent the right to go to the Ontario Municipal Board. Over the years, I've probably had 1,000 applications to committee of adjustments in this area and, frankly, this is the last place, the committee of adjustments in Ottawa, where they are independent of the politicians, where you really get a true objective hearing and everybody is given their day. In addition to that, if they happen to, in somebody's view, make a mistake, I think it's very, very important that you do revive the right to go to the Ontario Municipal Board on minor variance appeals.
The reason for that is that what is going to happen -- first of all, in talking to the board, I understand that the minor variances are only about 2% to 3% of their total work. That's their workload, 2% to 3%. But what is going to happen practically is that you're going to find that people are just going to apply for rezonings, because the minor variance route is simply a way of getting around having to go through the rezoning route. So they're going to apply for rezonings when they should be applying for minor variances and get the free ride to the board or at the administrative cost that has been set up.
Secondly, my concern as to putting minor variance applications in the hands of politicians is there's no doubt -- and maybe I've been around the city of Ottawa too long -- that politicians, notwithstanding of what stripe, trade votes. It's no secret that municipal politicians trade votes, and, "You support me on this matter; I'll support you on that one." That happens in the city of Ottawa all the time. The OMB is that last bastion of a chance for everybody to get the free hearing. To give you an example, I was once at a local committee of adjustments, which I won't mention, and one of the members leaned over and said, not, "What is on the other piece of land," but "Who lives there? Whose place is that?" -- that person, a supporter or not a supporter. So I beg you to keep in place the appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board.
The other matter that you're going to find is that often on minor variance applications, they're twinned with consent applications. So you're going to have one body able to deal with consents, another dealing with minor variances. That doesn't make a lot of sense.
The third practical problem you're going to have is that you're going to fill your courts with applications by lawyers like myself saying the municipality didn't do a proper job. So you're taking from one level, from the people who do it best, who are experienced to deal with these matters, and taking it to the courts. That, to me, just doesn't make any sense, so it's my submission to you here this morning that you should revive within Bill 20 the appeal to the OMB on minor variance matters.
The one other matter that I want to briefly address is the one with regard to the Residential Rights' Act where under the previous legislation you could have an apartment in every house. I support the views that that should be a municipal decision. I can tell you in this area it probably won't happen very much for the very reasons I mentioned earlier in my comments on committee of adjustments.
But having said that, with regard to the cutoff date -- and there aren't a lot of them, I'm sure, throughout Ontario -- I think the cutoff date should have included anybody who had made application at the time. I think in Ottawa there's the sum total of 14 on my last checking. So 14 people had done all of their plans and then the cutoff date comes, November 17, and it's quite unfair to those people who have applied. I just think you should make that even as the date of second reading or the date of final reading. Second reading would be fairer, because it would give those people at this time the ability to get on with their plans. That's from an equity point of view, and I bet you wouldn't have 100 in the whole province.
Overall, and I can tell you I speak generally for the municipal planning law bar in the city of Ottawa, I can tell you that we welcome most of the amendments, save and except for those two I have spoken on.
The mayor and I will be happy to answer any questions that you can address to us.
Mr Murdoch: I appreciate your presentation here, and I certainly can feel for you in your frustration with the bureaucrats at Queen's Park. Until we straighten that mess out, nothing's going to change. We can pass all the bills we want.
Mr Len Wood: You had 42 years to do it before and you didn't do it.
Mr Murdoch: Also, with your interest that since 1988 you've had a problem, I've said many times, and I'm sure most people agree with you, that the last 10 years have been lost years in Ontario, and that's what the problem has been the last 10 years. The bureaucrats have just taken over, and unfortunately we're having trouble.
Mr Gerretsen: Oh, come on. They were there before. Bring him to order. That's a purely partisan statement.
Mr Murdoch: I think, Barb, you have a question you'd like to ask them?
Mrs Fisher: Just on the minor variance appeal process.
Mr Chiarelli: Did Claude Bennett write your speech?
Mr Murdoch: At least when he was there, things got done.
Mrs Fisher: Just on the minor variance appeal process -- and I'm just testing this because you've addressed it in detail as well -- could a recommended solution be that no member of council be allowed to be appointed to the committee of adjustment, and then the client or the applicant have a right of appeal to the council as well and then, if they choose, to go to OMB as well. One of the constant concerns has been the right of the citizen and the ability to pay. If it ever came that there was a fee back from the OMB, there might be a resolve, almost on a mediation level, prior to that. Could that be a suggestion?
Mr Vice: I can say that I would be very happy to live with something like that, but you have to give not only the municipal council the right to send it to the board, you have to give the proponent that right also.
Mrs Fisher: Yes. But if you take out the council representation on the committee of adjustment, the first step, then that gives you the right to council, and then the applicant or council could still have the right to the OMB.
Mr Vice: Exactly. I was thinking over last night as I was looking at some of this stuff that another way might be to give the proponent the right to either go to council or go to the board, but you have to maintain the right of the individual, the small person, to be able to get to the board.
And don't get me wrong. The board has a great mediation process. The mediators at the board presently are doing a great job and they'll continue to do that.
Mr Lalonde: First of all, I wanted to congratulate his worship the mayor of Cumberland. I'm saying his worship. They've just taken a position now that they will become the city of Cumberland in the very near future, and I want to congratulate --
Mr Coburn: I was worship before.
Mr Lalonde: Pardon?
Mr Gerretsen: He was a worship before that.
Mr Lalonde: I know. I have just a small question. What impact will this Bill 20 have on your future city, the city of Cumberland?
Mr Coburn: Oh, very positive.
Mr Lalonde: On the business side and the industrial side?
Mr Coburn: By amending the act, it will be very positive. I'll be ecstatic if the staff and then the process follows through as it's supposed to. Then we all should be happy, because things will get along and I'll be able to maybe attract a few jobs out there to help pay the bills. So it's encouraging.
Mr Chiarelli: Peter, if the minor variance appeal is retained, how can the process be expedited and made less expensive? In many cases they truly are minor and in many cases the appeals are frivolous, and it's very costly to individuals and it takes a lot of time. Basically, do you have any recommendation how the appeal process can be retained but expedited and made less expensive?
Mr Vice: Yes, Bob, I think I do. I think that the board in the past has been really reluctant to give effect to a section within the act where it can dismiss for "insufficiency," I think the word is. The board, because it's a board of the people, so to speak, has been concerned about dismissing appeals. I think if there's some clear direction to the board from the legislators to encourage them to do that for certain reasons -- you might want to even set out in that section as to how they could do it, because I certainly agree that you can have a full day on a minor variance appeal often, and that's long and that's expensive. I agree with that. I think if the board is given encouragement within the legislation by way of setting out numerous reasons as to why they can dismiss, especially the ones that are more minor, then I think that would be helpful, Bob.
Mr Len Wood: We've had arguments that when you change it to "having regard to" instead of "being consistent with," it's going to add to uncertainty and it's not going to really help the development industry or the community. If you're saying they must be consistent with provincial policy, well, it's clear. It's like night and day.
The other one, and maybe you want to comment on it, is that I understand the Municipal Affairs minister is saying that one of the main reasons why he's bringing in so many amendments is that the policies are weighed too heavily towards protecting the environment. Do you have any concerns about that, if we're going to have policies here now that are not going to take any concern for the environment whatsoever, and the comment that I made earlier on "regard to"?
Mr Coburn: Just dealing with the "regard to," I think what that does is that puts more onus and responsibility and the decision back where the public that you're representing will have input on it. When you say "consistent with," that's a blanket policy across the province. Maybe what happens up around London is not something that necessarily fits here. In our desire, as politicians and public officials, to have public input and help mould and shape your community, that's what it's all about. That's what it's all about, and "having regard to," "Yes, these are the guidelines that we'd like to see you have some regard to."
I don't think you can write us off at the municipal level as being fools. We have some very talented people, politically and staffwise. We're not about to sell the ship in terms of the environment in our community either, and we're not going to let any developer run away with it. I think you'll find a lot of developments, after, post-development, exceeded the situation under --
Mr Len Wood: You're saying your municipality or this area wouldn't do it, but other areas in the province might just say: "Well, `regard for,' that doesn't mean anything. We'll just let it sit there on the shelf and collect dust and we're going to go ahead with what we're doing."
Mr Coburn: No. I still have confidence in the human factor, in human beings. We've got a democratic process where you elect people, and I think everybody who was elected, originally -- let me qualify that, originally -- wants to make things better. After they get stuck in this quagmire, that's when you compromise on what you're doing and you lose sight of all reality.
Mr Len Wood: Like we're seeing in Ontario.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Wood. Thank you both for making your presentation here this morning. We appreciate your comments.
The committee stands recessed till 1 o'clock.
The committee recessed from 1207 to 1309.
BIG RIDEAU LAKE ASSOCIATION
The Chair: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Our first presentation this afternoon will be the Big Rideau Lake Association. We have 20 minutes for you to use as you see fit, divided between presentation and question-and-answer period.
Mr John Peart: Fine. Thank you, Mr Chairman, ladies and gentlemen. My name is John Peart. As you can see from your agenda, I am a director of Big Rideau Lake Association and I believe that you will have my written submission shortly, if you don't have it now.
What I'd like to do in the few minutes that I have available here today is to help you understand the context of our presentation. What is important for you to appreciate, listening to what I have to say, is that the nature of Big Rideau Lake is probably not that different from many other lakes, especially in eastern Ontario, except in terms of size.
We are a large lake. We represent 1,400 permanent and seasonal lake owners as well as their neighbouring -- Big Rideau Lake is bordered by five townships and two counties and the watershed which drains into our lake is very extensive, all of this to say that the townships that surround Big Rideau Lake are rural in context naturally but also very small in terms of population. I would estimate that the average population of any of the five townships would be about 2,500 people and that would include the people who are surrounding the lake as well.
The townships are poor. They offer only minimal services. The councillors and clerks are all part-time. They do not have the financial resources to pay for full-time or regular planning advice, and this is the thrust of what I want to say to you today. Over the past many years the townships have worked closely with the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ministry of Environment and Energy and the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority in developing official plans, zoning bylaws and dealing with planning issues.
The townships use the ministries and agencies to develop a big picture, that is, to let the townships see what is going on outside of their boundaries and look at what effect a particular zoning bylaw or a particular development would have on the entire Rideau system. This has worked very, very well. In fact, we have had experience in the past where it has been excellent in the symbiotic relationship that has formed up. What made it work in part was that the ministries had the unspoken but very real ability, if necessary, either to assist townships or to carry out themselves a potential appeal to the OMB.
But Bill 20, in our submission, changes this. What it effectively does is leave the townships in a position of obtaining whatever advice the ministries' agencies can give them, this primarily because of financial cutbacks, and removes the touchstone of the policy statements that have given the township the right to ask for environmental impact studies and other studies to allow their decisions when they were required to make decisions to be consistent with the policy statements.
We believe that Bill 20 now will mean that townships will take the road of least resistance. They will rely on the developers' consultants to produce a report that appears to have regard to the much weakened policy statements and this will be the extent of the townships' studies. We feel that the townships then will have no ability or interest in considering the bigger picture but will deal only with individual applications on an ad hoc basis. We are very concerned that Bill 20 is going to promote planning which will lead to a piecemeal breakdown of the environmental integrity of the Rideau watershed.
In our written submission we've outlined six areas that we feel should be considered by this committee, and these are:
First, removing the restricted definition of "public bodies" to allow other ministries as well as the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to appeal zoning and development issues.
Second, requiring municipalities or at least those without full-time planning staff to be consistent with the policy statements, that is, to not "have regard to" the policy statements but to "be consistent with" the policy statements.
Third, and perhaps the most important if nothing else, maintaining the integrity of the policy statements so that development can proceed in an orderly manner but with environmental safeguards in place.
Now we all know that there are weaknesses in the policy statements that followed Bill 163. I think that goes without saying, but what we are trying to say here is that we feel that the proposed policy statements go far too far in making these changes.
Fourth, we feel that official plans should be allowed to maintain their position as a skeleton upon which bylaws can be placed and not something that can be changed relatively easily more as an expedient to perhaps a zoning or other kind of development issue.
Fifth, we would suggest that public meetings continue to be allowed for plans of subdivision. Especially in rural settings, we find that it is difficult to meet the time frames that are set out in the Planning Act anyway, and one thing that tends to draw together a community at least to consider something is a public meeting. We're concerned that if the wording of this particular portion of Bill 20 is taken in its strict sense, these public meetings will no longer be part of the Planning Act.
Lastly, we're concerned with the provision that would deny appeals from minor variances where councils are also members of the committee of adjustment. What we're concerned here with is that many times committees of adjustment are very similar to township councils, perhaps simply exchanging past councillors with current councillors or vice versa, and we feel that without the ability of individuals or concerned persons to appeal to some higher level, then the township council would make really minor variance applications without the proper process.
We've seen that the government in the past can be quite creative, and this is the part that I find rather interesting. I follow very closely many of the government's initiatives in making changes to legislation, and one that comes to mind for which I must congratulate the government is what they've done in the area of the Substitute Decisions Act and the ability they had there to carve out portions of the act that they found they wanted to change but to leave the integrity of the act in place.
We think this can be done to the Planning Act, and what we feel is happening through Bill 20 is that the government is taking a very heavy approach to something which needs relatively minor amendments. We feel that you could probably leave the Planning Act as it was by simply revising the policy statements or, vice versa, you could change the Planning Act through Bill 20 in part but leave the policy statements in place.
Those are my submissions.
The Vice-Chair (Mrs Barbara Fisher): Thank you. We have about two and a half minutes per caucus and we'll start with the Liberal Party this time.
Mr Gerretsen: I'm very much interested, sir, in the notion of public meetings during a subdivision process. I think there are different standards in the province as to what's required by different planning departments and councils. In order to get a rezoning, some require very extensive plans which the public would have access to and a public meeting would be called and others do not require that. What has been your experience from the Big Rideau Lake Association's viewpoint?
Mr Peart: We have found that the townships take it as a matter of course that they have to have a public meeting. They rely very heavily on guidelines produced from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing because of their rural nature. We find that these meetings on plans of subdivision are very well attended, even from the standpoint of information.
Mr Gerretsen: But that's the current system. Under the new proposed system you wouldn't need a meeting like that. But my question to you was, would you agree that more people come out when the actual subdivision plan is put forward for approval rather than when a property is simply rezoned and the plans for it aren't as extensive?
Mr Peart: There is no question. It's been our experience that you get much greater numbers out during a plan of subdivision than you would through a simple rezoning.
Mr Christopherson: Thank you for your presentation. I want to focus on your concern regarding the change from "be consistent with" to "have regard to." You state in your submission that you've already had some experience with that and then you go on, when and talk about the policy statements and the way they're being revised, that ultimately the "have regard to" test is meaningless. Can you just expand on that a little bit for me?
Mr Peart: I certainly could. It's been my experience, and I believe that the OMB decisions will bear me out here, that "have regard to" from the standpoint of the OMB and case law is that so long as the townships have looked at the policy statements and compared them to what the proposed development is, and as long as in their mind they're satisfied that they've been able to "have regard to" these statements, that they have looked at them, that's all they have to do, and there's been a big change from Bill 163 and "be consistent with." I think that they are light-years apart.
Mr Gerretsen: When you say you believe it will be meaningless I have to share the thought, that at the end of the day the government is trying to set up a situation where local municipalities can do whatever they please. Government members will argue that what they're doing is providing flexibility to local councils to be sensitive to local needs. Our concern on this side of the table is that in effect they're just cutting loose municipalities to do whatever they choose and taking a hands-off approach. Would you agree with that or is that being too harsh?
Mr Peart: No. I agree with that totally. I think that the portions of Bill 20 in this regard work if you have a relatively sophisticated municipality with in-house planning and legal staff. But in our part of the world that doesn't happen that way.
Mr Smith: I notice on page 4 you make reference to minor variance appeals and your concern that the proposed bill has with respect to that area. Would it be your view that the status quo should prevail in terms of the current appeal mechanism or is there an alternative appeal mechanism that you think would be appropriate to the decision-making bodies in your communities?
Mr Peart: Quite honestly, I cannot think of any other process than what we have now. It works relatively well, especially with the OMB mediation process that we now have in place. I don't think too many of these minor variance applications do get to the OMB formally and it could probably stay the very same.
Mr Hardeman: I found the analysis at the end of it rather interesting, when you suggested that maybe instead of changing both the wording of "shall be consistent with" and the policy statements, we could accomplish what needed accomplishing by doing one or the other but not necessarily both. Are you then implying that being consistent with does force municipalities to do exactly what the policy statement says and not make any local decisions?
Mr Peart: No. I'm not going that far. I do feel that when you use the words "be consistent with" you are forcing municipalities to a much higher standard than simply "have regard to." Not only must they simply consider the two policy statements on one hand and the development zoning proposal on the other, but they also must make sure the two of them marry up, at least to a strong enough degree that they will not be faulted. To deal with the policy statements on a "have regard" basis, as I've said, isn't going to accomplish anything.
The Chair: Thank you very much for making your presentation before us here today.
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from Lyall Graham. Good afternoon, Mr Graham.
Mr Lyall Graham: Thank you, Mr Chairman. Members of the panel, I'm Lyall Graham. I would like to address the problems of the restrictiveness of the nature of the grandfather clause in Bill 20 that in its present form will prevent myself and others from completing basement apartments in our homes. I started mine before November 16, 1995, and I'm not implying that I see this section of the legislation restrictive in any nature, because I don't. It may be a little bit hasty, that's all, in the broader sense of the term.
My presentation is in no way a deputation. I speak for and represent myself only. I know and am aware that you know there are others in somewhat similar circumstances who are caught up with the same issue. Are we going to be able to complete what we started? That is what we're asking ourselves. But I think there's more to it that you have not heard to date, that it has a little bit of twist to it, but I'll get around to that later.
It's only realistic, after listening to some of the questions from the panel, to feel encouraged that it is not your intention to unnecessarily cut somebody off at the knees when the time comes for making a decision. That there is room for and leeway in some issues seems encouraging to me. I'd be surprised if this committee didn't recognize the dignity and work of the individual along with the big-ticket items.
The first two pages of my brief deal with what I have to say and the following four pages are factual information to substantiate the first two.
You are aware, I'm sure, of one group of builders of basement apartments that is asking for such leeway. It is those who had applied for development approval prior to November 16, 1995, the day when construction for all of us came to a halt. But there is a companion group as well, which Mayor Holzman alluded to, of which I am one, that also deserves your recognition. It is those who up until November 16, 1995, had contributed a lot of time and money at the stage of pre-heavy construction. Here's an example. When the residents' rights legislation was proclaimed, I began immediately with the preliminaries to have a basement apartment in my home. But am I to be penalized because I didn't apply immediately for a development permit?
You can do a lot of work, spend a lot of time and make a lot of plans before you arrive at the stage where you need one. I began with three inspectors coming out to the house to see the application of the new legislation, because it was right at the beginning, who pointed out that I would need a permit to construct the parking space for a tenant. I got a city permit, which took three months, and altered the landscaping. The cost was just under $400 plus the landscaping. The two of them totalled about $1,200. There were further expenses for purchases of lumber, electrical hardware, large appliances for apartments, and the architectural fees were $600. All in all, my contribution to date is just under $5,000.
Council for the city of Ottawa as well as the Ottawa-Carleton Home Builders' Association have recognized this group of people such as myself, my group that I'm speaking about, as "proponents who had otherwise declared a serious intention to develop in accordance with the Residents' Rights Act" deserving a chance to finish their apartments.
If I can dramatize this a little by comparison as a picture of a man and his wife sitting around some evening talking about putting a basement apartment in their home, he says: "Dear, Mr Rae has made it available to us to go ahead and do this under the Residents' Rights Act. Do we need a basement apartment or do we not? Why shouldn't we go ahead? Your brother is an architect. He won't charge us anything." So they proceed, and after a few days they get finished drawings and they go ahead and present that in the way of a development permit.
There's not much commitment there. They may sit around and they start a basement apartment or they never will, but they are at that process. If there are rewards to be handed out, or better still, if there is an axe to come down, who deserves consideration and who should be the one who's penalized over the other? Is it a dummy like myself who piled up a lot of work and expenses and was about to apply for a permit at the critical time on November 16? I don't know. It's up to you to decide.
My brief describes a way of showing adequate progress in order for people like myself to qualify. The records that I've kept regarding times and permits and money are open for review. They have been accepted by council and by the city as making sense, and it's feasible. So it's both groups that are able to show intent that should be considered, not just one over the other.
Our friend Mayor Holzman has shown that city council feels it is fair and that we should be considered as one group and perhaps will find a way of describing us as one group and as eligible proponents who had otherwise declared a serious intention to develop in accordance with the Residents' Rights Act whose applications are pending. There's very little difference between the two of us.
Mr Christopherson: Certainly, as a member of the government that enacted the current legislation, we would be very supportive of your right to continue the process you've begun so that you can recoup your investment, but also to ensure that there's at least one more affordable unit within the housing stock in this area.
Mr Graham: I plan to remain in the area that I live in. I know the neighbours and I'm going to spend the rest of my days there. It's very important to me.
Mr Christopherson: Sure. Obviously you made application believing that this was in your best interests, first and foremost, or you wouldn't have started the process. I would also assume that you feel this is beneficial and appropriate to your immediate neighbourhood, that you're not going to cause any harm to the existing quality of life to your neighbours by doing this.
Mr Graham: I wouldn't think so. My neighbour has three students staying, there coming and going, which puts a lot more stress on the services, a little more infilling there. I live right beside the Ottawa Civic Hospital. Another one has a bed and breakfast. There are only nine people on our street and the hospital is right opposite, so there's nobody on the other side at all. We're kind of isolated. But you mention permits. I haven't made an application for a permit. I was about to make an application for a permit. I made an application for a landscaping permit and then completed the landscaping.
Mr Christopherson: If you believe that this is appropriate in the circumstances for you and your immediate neighbourhood, would you believe that the continuation of the existing legislation could also be helpful to our society as a whole and therefore agree that it should be left the way it is?
Mr Graham: You mean under the Residents' Rights Act?
Mr Christopherson: Yes.
Mr Graham: I'm afraid not. No, I wouldn't think so.
Mr Christopherson: So you want to keep it for you but shut it down for everyone else? I'm assuming that's not correct, but I do need to hear you.
Mr Graham: I'm just saying the right rules, there seem to be more people and you have to look at the different residential areas. If you took a plebiscite, there would be more people in our area who -- not right on my street but behind me, some pretty nice-looking areas. Naturally, a lot of doctors who work at the hospital have swimming pools and they might -- I know what you're saying. I have opportunity to serve on committees with them. I know what they're like and so forth because of restrictions on parking in the area. I wouldn't go against them on that. I would discuss it with them.
But if I could retract a little bit, I think I might be a little bit more the other way, where I would like to see it happen. But you have to deal with both sides and hear both arguments.
Mr Christopherson: Right. I do hope that the government sees its way clear to help people who are in your circumstance and, beyond that, wish that it would recognize the damage it's going to do to affordable housing through all of its housing policies.
Mrs Fisher: I was interested in your presentation because I was a little surprised, having spent five days of hearings in Toronto already, that it seemed to be a major issue in Toronto and was surprised that the city of Ottawa and the surrounding cities weren't experiencing some of these as well. So I'm glad somebody showed up.
Mr Graham: I'm sorry. I didn't hear a thing. I have a hearing aid but it didn't come through.
Mrs Fisher: I was saying I was glad to have your presentation here this afternoon because one of the questions I was asking at lunchtime was that of the presenters so far today, very few mentioned it and only one in any magnitude. They talked about only 100 applications, since the time that Bill 163 came into effect to where we are today, that might be affected.
Mr Graham: Mayor Holzman mentioned it.
Mrs Fisher: That's what I'm saying. One other party certainly did. What I'm wondering is, you did mention that there's a unit in the house next to yourself, where there are three students living. Would that be considered in a second flat definition then?
Mr Graham: I wouldn't think so. I don't think that'll change. I don't think bed and breakfasts will change either. That's my interpretation, but maybe you know better.
Mrs Fisher: Has that put any stress on the reliance on servicing or impact in the community because of the coming and going?
Mr Graham: A lot more stress is put on the nine houses because we all share common laneways and we don't have any fences between the lots, so we're kind of a unit there. Yes, I could see where in some cases it would put stress on them, but in my area it doesn't. I guess you'll have to look at the other applicants and see if it does.
Mrs Fisher: It looks like with Bill 20 the municipality will still have the right to make a decision whether or not to continue to allow second units or not.
Mr Graham: Are you talking through the committee of adjustment for a zoning change?
Mrs Fisher: Under Bill 20, under the new act, there is a section there that allows for municipal councils to continue allowing second units if they choose to.
Mr Graham: Oh, yes. That's the same as it always was. That's just going back to the old way.
Mrs Fisher: But that wouldn't really deter or affect you negatively then.
Mr Graham: It's not an effective way, it's tantamount to failure to go that direction. That's why I'm a little edgy and hoping that you'll take action and just change the grandfather, wind it up a little bit.
Mrs Fisher: I understand.
Mr Hardeman: If I could just quickly go back to the issue of the building permit, you said you have not yet received a building permit. Have you applied for the building permit?
Mr Graham: No, I hadn't applied, sir.
Mr Hardeman: So the city has not made a decision on whether it should or should not issue a building permit during the interim.
Mr Graham: To people like us?
Mr Hardeman: Yes.
Mr Graham: Yes, they have. It's in their presentation that they want to include us with those that have applied as proponents who "had otherwise declared a serious intention to develop in accordance with the Residents' Rights Act."
Mr Hardeman: So you were looking to be part of that group that has applied but has not been issued a permit by the city until the proclamation of Bill 20.
Mr Graham: That's right. I hope so. But that requires your sanction. I mean, it's up to you.
Mr Hardeman: With the city's stated intention that it wishes to have those included as grandfathered in Bill 20, would that tell you that it would also be looking favourably upon extending the second-unit rights in areas of the municipality?
Mr Graham: You should have asked that to Mayor Holzman when she was here.
Mr Gerretsen: I notice that Mr Hardeman, who's the parliamentary assistant of Municipal Affairs and Housing, didn't answer your question.
Mr Graham: Who's that?
Mr Gerretsen: That's Mr Hardeman the minister's right-hand man, and he could give a commitment --
Mr Graham: Come on over to my house, we barbecue a salmon tonight.
Mr Gerretsen: He could give a commitment right here and now that the government would do the right thing and give people like yourself who are caught in this Never-never Land the opportunity to complete your unit. Can you give us that commitment, Mr Hardeman, that you will go back and you will get this changed? This is the only fair way to deal with it. Will you?
The Chair: I believe there was some concern expressed --
Mr Gerretsen: He can answer for himself. He's a grown man. Will you?
The Chair: -- by your party about debate earlier today, Mr Gerretsen.
Mr Gerretsen: I guess he's not going to give you that commitment, but I think it's the right and fair thing to do. I didn't quite understand the answer you gave to Mr Christopherson here. You're saying that you want it for yourself but not for somebody else?
Mr Graham: Yes, but I reversed that.
Mr Gerretsen: Okay, you didn't mean that. I understand. I just wanted to get it right on the record, because when we go back to Toronto, the government members will be reading through Hansard and they'll be picking all this stuff out.
Mr Graham: Do you not like those guys?
Mr Gerretsen: Personally they're all right but they're in the wrong direction, unfortunately.
I like this comment that you make about zone changes and committee of adjustment matters. What has been said in the past is that if a minor variance -- if you can't appeal it to the OMB, just do a zone change and the impression has been left that it's very expensive to go to the OMB on a minor variance --
Mr Graham: And time consuming.
Mr Gerretsen: But I would suggest to the government members -- and I wonder if you could confirm that with me -- that it is probably three times as expensive to go through a complete zone change.
Mr Graham: That's right, and very time consuming.
Mr Lalonde: At the present time I think the bill will permit the municipality to allow the second apartment, but I'm surprised to see that you were not able to go ahead with your apartment as planned at the present time.
Mr Graham: Well, it's Bill 20 that did that.
Mr Lalonde: Bill 20 hasn't been passed in third reading yet.
Mr Graham: Retroactively.
Mr Lalonde: And also, it doesn't state that you will not be able to go ahead with the construction of a basement apartment.
Mr Graham: Well, it does say --
Mr Gerretsen: It doesn't say it will either.
Mr Lalonde: No, it doesn't say it will either, but there's one thing that we'll have to remember. We have to be very careful of the services of the municipality, like is there parking facility available within the area to accommodate your basement apartment?
Mr Graham: I had to make one. I had to get a permit.
Mr Lalonde: There are all sorts of problems that could be created to a municipality whenever there's a second apartment being built without the municipality's approval. We are in favour. The municipality could have, within their official plan, the permission of not going through a zoning amendment to allow the second apartment, but this is left to the municipality.
Mr Graham: I may be dead by then.
Mr Baird: Don't humour them.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Lalonde.
Mr Graham: I want to go fishing.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Graham. We appreciate your taking time to come today to make a presentation.
OTTAWA FIELD-NATURALISTS' CLUB
The Chair: Our next group up is the Ottawa Field-Naturalists' Club. Good afternoon.
Mr Michael Murphy: I'm just going to read some prepared remarks which your assistant is distributing. If there are any questions, I'd be happy to answer them. If not, I'll let you get ahead of schedule.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to your committee. I represent the Ottawa Field-Naturalists' Club. Since 1879, our club has promoted the appreciation, preservation and conservation of Canada's natural heritage. I am currently the vice-president of the club and a member of the council which is its governing body. I also chair the club's conservation committee, which is a position bringing with it a particular perspective which may well be called a special interest, concerning the laws, statutes and regulations which affect wildlife and wildlife habitat.
A public review of any change to public policy is valuable as well as necessary, since it brings an opportunity for society as a whole to ask basic questions concerning good government and to expect reasonable answers. We believe that one such question, that of land owner rights, has been the driving force behind this particular set of revisions to the planning legislation and policies of our province, as proposed by Bill 20.
It is clear that certain recent reforms introduced by the former Ontario government, such as the 1992 wetlands policy and Bill 163, have been widely criticized and opposed by land owner groups. With respect, we believe that Bill 163 was properly enacted to achieve the goals of the province of Ontario as identified by the Commission on Planning and Development Reform after a consultation process much more extensive than that being undertaken by your committee.
But it seems equally clear that much of the opposition by land owners has been due more to the way these reforms were implemented that what they were intended to accomplish. We certainly heard this message again and again over the last two years in a series of meetings we attended with representatives of property rights groups. We met with them at every possible opportunity in the hope of reconciling the public interest with the rights of land owners and the implementation of Ontario's wetland policy.
We have taken a position of support for the affected land owners in the matter of compensation for development rights. In other words, if the public benefits, the public should be willing to pay. However, we also believe that society, as lawfully constituted, has rights and responsibilities that must continue to take precedence over those of individual land owners.
The real question is: How can we identify the value of development rights that are affected by valid land use planning decisions to protect the public interest? We need answers to find a way for compensation to be fairly negotiated without necessarily requiring expropriation.
We strongly believe that provincial interest in the natural environment goes beyond the identification of areas of provincial significance: for adequate and effective protection of our natural heritage, a system of recognizing and preserving areas of local and regional significance is just as important. Provincial agencies such as the Ministry of Natural Resources must have policy direction and core funding for coordinating and monitoring such a system.
As an example from our own experience, for the past seven years, the Ottawa Field-Naturalists' Club and our partners have been gradually developing a 17-acre wildlife garden project near the Arboretum on the Rideau Canal here in Ottawa. We have experienced just how painfully slow, expensive and labour intensive the process of restoration of even a small area can be, even where there is strong support and almost ideal conditions. We have learned first hand that it is more effective to preserve existing natural areas than to try to rehabilitate them once they've been degraded and destroyed. Too much of our natural heritage is already gone forever.
That is why believe it would be unwise of the province to simply relinquish absolute decision-making authority to municipalities without effective measures making them both responsible and accountable for protection of the natural environment.
In our experience, municipal councils faced with a conflict between environmental values and perceived economic benefits, will go for the gold every time. This is understandable, given the competition among municipalities for the development dollars and development charges they need to increase revenues without raising taxes.
You and the other members of the Legislature must ensure that the province is able to continue to coordinate planning and resolve transboundary issues. As provincial infrastructure funding is phased out, which is a financial instrument which has been effectively used in the past to encourage municipalities to comply with provincial policy, this will be more and more difficult. In the interests of the public and the people of Ontario, we urge you to retain the power to enforce protection of the natural environment. Those are my remarks.
Mr Galt: Thank you for a very thoughtful presentation. Certainly you've been around quite a bit with naturalists and concerned about the environment, and I can assure you this government has no intention of destroying the environment or damaging it, but just coming around to who pays is the problem that I keep struggling with. Certainly land owners, as you've heard, are very upset with -- you can use confiscating, expropriation, all kinds of terms have been used out there, when in fact they have lost some of the uses of those lands, particularly the ones that go around the wetlands. One of the councillors from a neighbouring municipality has bought a very large marsh area in my municipality, and my hat goes off to her, I think that's just marvellous, and the purpose is to maintain it.
The Ontario government is out of money. The farmers or developers or land owners are upset over losing this land. Do you have any suggestions how we can go about ensuring that these people are recognized for their land properly and at the same time have it held for future environmental purposes?
Mr Murphy: Yes, sir, I do have a recommendation, one I advanced to the other members of the wetland working group, a forum in which we were able to meet with land owners, municipal planners and other interested parties on this very same question. There are very few instruments available to tackle the problem of compensation for conservation in the public interest, but one thing we already do is to tax land owners on the basis of the services they receive.
It's maybe time we start to countervail that by offering compensation to those land owners who have lands which offer environmental goods and services, giving them a tax benefit on the basis of the environmental services they and their land provide. By retaining their land in a natural condition, they should be eligible for a tax credit.
If it were possible to match this with the costs incurred by an area or a local municipality for compensating land owners for conservation areas, and maybe divide up that compensation money among those land owners, then the municipality would be a lot more free to designate lands as environmentally sensitive, not only at the provincial but at the regional and local level of significance, without the fear of a backlash.
If the rest of the citizens in a municipality were to get a line item on their tax bill which showed them how much they were getting for paying for the existence value of wetlands, forests, any kind of significant environmental feature in their area, then it becomes a political issue of, how much are we willing to pay for preserving nature in our municipality?
Mr Galt: If I can just wind up here, you may be interested to know that we have continued the farm tax rebate and we are reimplementing the forest rebate that was taken away a few years ago. You're suggesting that maybe lands around the wetlands be included in a similar tax rebate program.
Mr Murphy: That is correct.
Mr Len Wood: The Conservatives are saying they're broke and they're giving money away.
Mr Galt: No, we're just honouring the --
Mr Murdoch: Just helping this gentleman out. That's exactly what he wants.
Mr Gerretsen: There's no question about it. If somebody can't use their land because it's environmentally sensitive land, then they ought to be compensated for it, and then it becomes a totally political question how much compensation you give. But we also have to keep in mind that those individuals got that land at some point in time when presumably those same environmental conditions existed, so presumably whatever they paid for the land, however they got it, took that into account. You wouldn't pay as much for wetlands as you would for good farm land, for example.
I liked your statement here, though, that "if the public benefits, the public should be willing to pay." I guess what's unfortunate about this whole process is that in the Planning Act we're just dealing with process -- X number of days' appeals a year, that sort of thing -- and what we should be talking about at the same time is the policy statement itself, and that's really what you're addressing.
It's my understanding that policy statements, generally speaking, don't get discussed by a committee like this, because basically a government, whichever government's in there, just implements it at some point in time, after having done its own consultation behind closed doors with certain groups etc, which is a very unsatisfactory way of getting a public policy. We're just dealing with process here, unfortunately. I wonder what your comments are on that. How do you think the system can be improved?
Mr Murphy: Definitely land owners do rightly feel that with the title to their land comes a bundle of rights. As you alluded, the value of that bundle of rights does take into account the development opportunities of the land at the time they purchased it. What seems to be at issue is the fact that the province, with the 1992 wetlands policy, was in effect changing what the potential promotion opportunities were, whether or not lands of a certain character were possible to redesignate.
By removing the possibility of redesignating them, these land owners felt that they were being unfairly treated when the province was trying to finesse this through by saying, "We're not changing the status of anyone's land; it is true we're limiting your opportunity to change the status," but there was no mechanism for identifying what your potential development rights would have been worth under various scenarios.
Mr Gerretsen: But isn't there also the other notion that if we come up with new environmental protection techniques or knowledge that we didn't have 40 or 50 years ago on how to deal with industry etc, we impose it on industry, or we ought to, to make the environment safer. Why shouldn't we impose that same sort of thing, as greater knowledge comes along etc, on property owners and business owners and anybody else out there?
Mr Murphy: Quite so. I agree that is something that the individual citizen benefits from. The cost of protecting environmental resources across the board is, in a way, an indivisible kind of cost.
Mr Gerretsen: We all benefit from being there.
Mr Murphy: Exactly. The cost of doing it is -- you can't divide your cost is greater than mine because I breathe less air. It's an opportunity where we have to take it off the top, if you will, and that's why the province has to be involved. We can't otherwise be able to manage the complex identification of flows of where your fresh water comes from, where your fresh air comes from, where your wilderness areas still remain, over the benefit to society as a whole, even though some economists and ecologists have tried to identify these as proximal values. If you're close to the woodlot, you benefit more than somebody who is 20 miles away.
Mr Gerretsen: I wish we could go on discussing this at some length because the government members could really learn from a good discussion like this, but unfortunately our time is up.
Mr Christopherson: Mr Murphy, I want to thank you very much for your presentation. Unfortunately, the folks who see dollar signs, as you said, "going for the gold," are in the driver's seat on this issue and voices like yours are not carrying the day. However, we will continue to fight for the very arguments you're making.
I was particularly impressed with your comment around, "We have learned first hand it is more effective to preserve existing natural areas than to try to rehabilitate them once they've been degraded and destroyed."
Being from Hamilton with the beautiful natural harbour that we have is a prime example of the billions of dollars it's costing us to clean up the harbour. In that case there's no one to really fault. There wasn't near the understanding of ecosystems that we have now that existed at the turn of the century. The real crime here is that we do know better and we know what can happen if you loosen things up as far as the government's suggesting, and without doubt there will be, if not people in the next few years, certainly future generations that will look back and acknowledge this as a very dark time for the province after having made significant gains in building towards sustainable development.
I remember that great Tory John Crosbie talking about short-term pain for long-term gain, and I think what we're seeing here is short-term gain for long-term pain, because while there may be a generation of immediate dollars, the cost to all of us in terms of our quality of life and then to eventually clean up the damage that's going to be done, particularly in wetlands, will be much greater. Of course, what will happen then is all of us as taxpayers will pay the cleanup, while those who are benefitting right now, individuals and individual corporations, will take the money and run.
I don't recall seeing in here any reference to the change in terms of municipal councils having to be "consistent with" provincial policy, whereas now they're moving to "have regard to."
Mr Murphy: I'm not particularly concerned with that, even though I know others are. I really think that where there's will to protect natural resources, municipalities will follow the spirit as well as the letter, but where there is no will to protect them, no letters of this wording or that wording are going to make them, I'm afraid.
Mr Christopherson: The government members will suggest to you that what they're doing is giving more flexibility to local councils because they can be more sensitive to immediate decisions that need to be made etc. I ask you straight up: Who do you think has the greater responsibility for the protection of the environment, the local councils or the provincial government?
Mr Murphy: Right now the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing has the responsibility for the natural environment in section 2 of the Planning Act, but there's nowhere any regulations or statutes or policies that really show exactly in what way that responsibility will be discharged. It seems to me as though as the responsibilities of the minister are devolved down to the municipal level, there should be with it some explicit -- maybe the draft policy statement is the mechanism to do so, in which case it doesn't really go far enough.
There must be a way to identify how this sharing of powers and sharing of responsibilities is actually going to take place, and that's what I allude to when I say that you've got to task them with the responsibility as well as the authority to make these decisions. Otherwise, it will be even harder for local municipalities to protect the natural environment, when they may not have much reason to respect it when faced with the alternatives: even less incentive, less opportunity, fewer things in the tool box than the Minister of Municipal Affairs had when he or she had the statements of provincial interest to fall back on as recommended by food land or Natural Resources.
The Chair: Thank you very much for making your presentation here today. We appreciate your coming.
REGIONAL MUNICIPALITY OF OTTAWA-CARLETON
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from the regional municipality of Ottawa-Carleton, the planning and property department.
Mr Peter Clark: I refuse to make any presentations as long as you've got a guy from the Grey-Bruce area around the table.
Mr Murdoch: I wondered where you were.
Mr Clark: Oh, Billy, try to behave yourself. Could Mr Christopherson take charge of that committee member for me?
Mr Murdoch: We've got one from Bruce now too.
Mr Clark: No kidding? We've got to cut down, because there's not enough to warrant that.
The Chair: Good afternoon.
Mr Clark: Well, it looks like it's a good afternoon. I now have Mr Christopherson -- I can personally apologize for being too frivolous last time.
Mr Murdoch: Now he's going to leave.
Mr Christopherson: I was just going to leave.
Mr Clark: He's afraid there's more coming.
Mr Christopherson: I'll stay.
Mr Clark: For the record, bonjour, good afternoon, thank you. It's nice to have an opportunity to talk to you about the region's position on Bill 20. With me this afternoon I have two regional staff members, Andrew Hope from the planning department and Tim Marc from the legal department, both of whom have had a fair amount of responsibility at the staff level with preparing a response that's gone through our committee and council.
We had input from the public and a fair amount of broad input that went to making up our position paper.
Regional council shares the government's commitment to reforming the planning process. Further, regional council supports the province's objectives of streamlining development approvals, providing municipalities with greater autonomy and stimulating economic development. I think the latter is the most important, because frankly one of the major complaints we've had with the planning process is that there are just too many hurdles put in the way, too many barriers put in the way of development. That doesn't mean we compromise on principles; it means we need to get a process that's efficient and responsible.
Regional council's sincerity in this regard can be measured by the very active role staff has been asked to take in all matters relating to reform, both in-house and in conjunction with the provincial staff in these areas. It's with the benefit of this knowledge that regional council commends the province for making the following constructive changes:
Reinstatement of section 3, "shall have regard to" phrase in place of the more onerous "shall be consistent with" linking planning with policy statements. This sort of implied that we weren't going to be very responsible unless we went -- and this has been a source of contention. You need to protect the province's legitimate land use policy interests, but I think it also allows for a degree of local autonomy that wasn't present in the previous one.
The introduction of a process to exempt official plans from review and approval by approval authorities, Municipal Affairs and the region itself is important. It's important also because it'll make the process more effective as long as people understand that there is a cascade. There is provincial policy, there is regional interpretation of the regional official plan, and then the local official or secondary plans can flow from that without necessarily Big Brother making sure of the i's and t's. If there is something wrong, I guess we can deal with that on an issue-by-issue basis.
It's important to look at the reduction in processing time lines, particularly now when the province is trying to struggle to come out of some rather difficult years in terms of the economy. The more we can do to make it work, the better off we are; that's my view.
Introduction of transitional provisions that allow old planning applications to be disposed of under the former prevailing process and policy environment is also important because you know, you changed the rules in midstream and you should have some kind of grandfathering or transition to deal with it.
We think those changes were all constructive, but we do think you can improve on the bill. We've warmed you up; now we've got to tell you some things we think you should look at. There are three principal ones, and that's the focus of what we're going to talk about today.
The first one involves the proposal for direct municipal board appeals. Regional council is troubled by two fundamental issues associated with direct OMB appeals, be they for official plans or official plan amendments or subdivisions or whatever, because without an ability to dismiss frivolous OMB referral requests locally and with the traditional OMB habit or interest in saying, "We'll give everybody a day in court" -- that's why we're into two-year waits to get to the OMB, for starters, and you can look at what that does to anybody's plans if they've borrowed the money to get the plans rolling.
Anybody -- and there are a whole pile of people there who like process -- could challenge anything and then the estimates are that you would get as much as 50% of all applications being challenged by some competitor's employee's mother-in-law just to keep the competitor off the map for a while, for no particular reason. By the time you get it on OMB schedule -- John, you know what those are like -- it's a long time. It's just a concern. I think we've got to retain that ability to deal with these things locally. Some people think it would even be higher than 50%, and I'm not going to even put a number on it. All I know is that it creates a problem we don't need to have.
Finally, direct OMB appeals remove the ability to resolve disputes locally. Sometimes you compromise and if individual A just wants to come and be heard -- and we've got some who are there at every planning committee meeting, talking about everything we do, who don't have anything real to do, but they're there -- when you get into this, these people will of course want to have this other opportunity at great expense both to the province through funding the OMB and to ourselves through having to defend ourselves against these things. It's really important that you recognize that once the OMB has received the appeal, it's up to the OMB to resolve all open issues and it really just throws all of the fine objectives of streamlining the process into a cocked hat.
A second important area concerns the notion of a complete application. If somebody just tosses a single page of paper for, for argument's sake, a major development application -- no details, no real fundamental work being done on it -- right now, if you don't act on it within a certain period of time, they can ask to have it forwarded to the OMB because of lack of effective response on the part of the municipality. I've even used it, but that's not the issue.
I think it's there to protect the individual from excess bureaucratic zeal on the part of the municipality, and that's a legitimate piece of action. On the other hand, if somebody doesn't give you the information on which you can base a decision, should that be -- as long as you get back to him fairly quickly and say, "Look, your application's incomplete for these reasons." Is that sort of the notion?
Mr Tim Marc: Yes.
Mr Clark: If I'm wrong, Tim, just elbow me. If you do elbow me, it's a career-limiting move.
But you've got to understand that if somebody hands you something that's incomplete or poorly done or hasn't considered everything and you tell them right away, "Your application is incomplete. We need this information," the ball's in their court. The clock isn't still running over here. It wasn't lost in the Planning Act reform discussions but it was reduced only to the most basic information in the belief that applicants will act out of self-interest. Well, I agree they'll act out of the self-interest, unfortunately not the way you think, and I suspect you need to tidy that up.
The final area is the exemption process for official plans and amendments. I guess council views this proposal as similar in concept to the very successful experience with undisputed official plan amendment approvals under the Planning Act of 1983. I think that was a good thing. However, under the old act I could delegate that to a senior staff member and never had to go through a four-week wait or six-week wait to get to council. I'd like to still have that ability.
Basically we believe that it would be better implemented by amending section 17 in the new bill to allow determination of official plan exemption status to be delegated to a committee of the approval authority council or staff, the rationale being, why clutter our legislative agenda if there's no dispute?
We question how direct OMB appeals will deliver on the need for streamlined development approvals if the approvals process can be frustrated more readily than at any other time in the province. I hope I haven't overflogged that, but I'm going to flog it again before I'm done this presentation. I think that's a serious one. But there is definitely the cost dimension as well for OMB appeals, you can't ignore that. Your cost, our cost, Ontario's cost.
Since being delegated the approval authority for all these things, regional councils have witnessed a dispute rate of approximately 3%. In other words, 97% of them are resolved without having to go to OMB and without having to have Big Brother in Toronto overlooking them. Most of these things are -- we put conditions down, they don't like the conditions, usually they get resolved. To put it into context, it should be pointed out, as I say, staff resolve them. Very few of them get even to the political level to be resolved.
Regional council maintains that the referrals system has worked well to save both the applicant and the municipality considerable time, effort and expense, so we don't think you need to change that.
Regional council believes the province can and should do better. While the concept of a complete application under Bill 163 is confusing because of the distinction between prescribed and required information, Bill 20 offers an alternative that in and of itself could result in more disputes, and that's not what you're about I'm sure. Because municipalities would be forced to refuse applications owing to lack of sufficient information rather than put it back in the hands of the applicant to get the information completed.
In the interest of streamlining approvals and providing greater autonomy, we recommend that we should be empowered to amend official plans to specify what information is necessary and then follow our own rules after that. That would still give oversight at Municipal Affairs. That would be the kind of thing I'd see as sensible. You'd have your oversight, you'd agree that what we're asking for is reasonable, and after that the process flows.
There are a number of other points in the paper which we've sent to you, and I'm not going to try to cover them all. In conclusion, we support Bill 20. We believe it provides greater autonomy, we believe it provides faster process, but we believe that you need to reinstate the referral process for subdivisions and official plans; no random OMB direct access. We believe that you should allow the official plans to specify the information requirements for a complete application and we believe that you should allow us to delegate the authority for undisputed plans downward in our organizations and even to our lower tiers.
I thank you for your time. Merci beaucoup. Cela me fait encore un grand plaisir d'être ici. J'ai un ami et voisin, Jean-Marc Lalonde, l'ancien maire de Rockland. I taught him all I know, but it was tough.
Mr Gerretsen: The first thing I want to do is to assure your sidekicks Tim and Andrew that I will not be asking them how the Palladium got to be zoned the way it was.
Mr Clark: We tried to move it to Kingston, but they had the battle here.
Mr Gerretsen: Because Sean isn't here and we found out that because Firestone owned it he got what he wanted. Anyway, having said that --
Mr Baird: Firestone's got ties to the NDP.
Mr Clark: Whoa. I don't think you can say that.
Mr Gerretsen: That was said by somebody. I can't remember who.
Anyway, you don't want direct appeals to the OMB, and I agree with respect to the frivolous objections. How would you resolve the frivolous objections? Would that be a regional council decision whether or not an objection --
Mr Clark: Yes.
Mr Gerretsen: Okay. But where are the appearances of fairness? Since regional council has approved the situation, how can they also adjudicate whether something is frivolous or not?
Mr Clark: Generally they both arrive at the same time. They're not approved before the objection's lodged. There's no approval and then somebody objects. Usually the committee deals with this, council has yet to approve it, the objector's objection and the report rise to council with the recommendation of staff as to whether or not the matter should be referred.
Mr Gerretsen: Well, I suggest that the OMB be instructed to use this section a lot more than it has in the past, which I think is a fairer way to deal with it. I think somewhere along the line you need an independent final voice or person that's outside the community that will adjudicate this. But I guess we'll just have a difference of opinion on that. Certainly they haven't used it enough.
Mr Clark: It won't be our last one.
Mr Len Wood: Thank you for a good presentation, a lengthy presentation. You're saying that you support most of Bill 20.
Mr Clark: Yes.
Mr Len Wood: We're all aware of the campaign promises that were made during the election that we're going to reduce the amount of funding that is going to go on conditional grants, unconditional grants.
Mr Clark: Absolutely. It's been a disastrous cut. That damned Ernie has taken so much money away I hardly could afford to come today. There is a hardship in some of the communities as a result of this and they're trying to find different ways of funding. We know that Minister Leach is saying, "When the environmental issues come up, economic development is maybe more important." He made a presentation to the bar association; I don't know his exact wording but something to that effect.
Mr Len Wood: Is that not one of your concerns, that the municipalities might be trying to find ways of raising fast money -- in Bill 20 and not too much concern for wetlands, the environment?
Mr Clark: No. I guess I could take exception to being accused of looking for fast money. If I wanted fast money, I wouldn't be in this particular room.
Mr Len Wood: I'm not saying you, but I'm saying some municipalities might.
Mr Clark: I just think, do we need, in order to protect the environmental side of this region, a process that was envisioned in Bill 163? I think not. Are we going to be environmentally responsible? Andrew, you've dealt with our council and our general philosophy. Why don't you talk about how we care about the environment?
Mr Andrew Hope: Certainly, there's nothing in Bill 20 which would prejudice our activities in terms of protecting the environment. Those matters relate more to the draft provincial policy statements which the province's requesting comment on at this point in time.
In terms of regional council, we've been very proactive in protecting the environment, at least we believe we have, and we have policies which certainly at this point in time, if the proposed draft policy statements were approved by provincial cabinet, would exceed the requirements of provincial policies in some very important areas.
So on balance we think that we've moved aggressively to protect agricultural lands. We certainly have had a difficult time wrestling with the wetlands policies, but nevertheless we have been proactively considering those and other areas of environmental significance.
The Chair: Mr Murdoch.
Mr Clark: Can't you ask somebody else?
The Chair: I just respond to the hands that go up.
Mr Murdoch: I was trying to be nice and say that we're really pleased to be here in this fine area and pleased to hear from you, and your report. I was even going to say that hopefully we can help you out on some of your suggestions. We want to work with you, but I have to straighten something out, though. You did say Grey-Bruce. We do have a member from Bruce who sits beside me, Barb Fisher.
Mr Clark: She informed me, but still, when I taught up at a high school, which I understand they're bulldozing now, Grey Highlands --
Mr Murdoch: No, they're not.
Mr Clark: It was brand-new at the time.
Mr Murdoch: No, no. Grey Highlands we're keeping.
Mr Clark: I heard it was going.
Mr Murdoch: It's the OSCVI.
Mr Clark: I taught at OSCVI too. It was a long time ago, Bill. Now that you've corrected me, have you any substantive questions?
Mr Murdoch: It's always nice to be able to correct you. That's a pretty tough thing to do.
Mr Clark: Well, I stand corrected.
Mr Murdoch: That's all I needed on the record. I'm happy.
Mrs Fisher: I am the member for Bruce, originally from Ottawa. So please, it is okay to be just from Bruce.
I have a question as it relates to the appeal process on minor variances.
Mr Clark: That's usually committee of adjustment stuff, you mean.
Mrs Fisher: With regard to that, would you see any merit in appointing a committee of adjustment that does not have elected officials on it so that the next line of appeal could be the council?
Mr Clark: We already have those.
Mrs Fisher: I'm talking about province-wide now. We're here representing everybody and we're wondering whether that would be a good policy or not.
Mr Clark: There were no elected officials on the committee of adjustment in Cumberland, and I don't believe there are any in the city of Ottawa. Andrew, do you know anything about that, or Tim?
Mr Hope: In the position paper you have before you today, the position we took was that the provisions of Bill 20 were acceptable. However, we want to point out that at the regional municipality of Ottawa-Carleton we don't deal with minor variances. That's a lower-tier responsibility.
Mr Clark: Aside from that.
Mr Murdoch: He didn't like your answer.
Mr Clark: No, the answer's fine, but the fact of the matter is that --
Mrs Fisher: I'm asking for a reason. I'm not asking to be silly. It's just that it has been an issue.
Mr Clark: The policy is generally not to have elected officials on committees of adjustment and the policy has worked well. So are they necessary on a committee of adjustment? No. Do committee-of-adjustment things get appealed periodically to council? Yes.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr Clark, and your associates. I appreciate your taking the time to make your presentation before us here today.
Mr Clark: It is always fun.
PETER BURNS DON KENNEDY
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from Messrs Peter Burns and Don Kennedy. Good afternoon.
Mr Peter Burns: That is a tough act to follow, and I never have the nerve to try and correct something that Peter pronounced.
Mr Clark: I want to stay here and listen because I'm a little bit worried about what you might say.
Mr Burns: Thank you for inviting me. I'm Peter Burns. I'm drawing on my experience from CMHC days, a city of Ottawa director, and serving on several provincial boards over the years. I'm now in the home building and land development business as senior vice-president of Urbandale Corp. I'm not a planner, so don't expect technical comments. That's why I brought someone with me.
But I do know that being expected to work with the complexity of a massive Bill 163 certainly wasn't fair to the average municipal planner. We still see the bill done up in the shipping paper. For people in the development business or even for the average citizen trying to respond to some zoning matter, the feeling is that the Sewell commission came up with a number of very good features, many good ideas, but certainly it was typical of the ideology of the previous government, in not trusting anyone to implement, to give discretion in implementation.
You've seen the thickness of it. It would be nice to think we could get back something like this half-inch, which was the Planning Act of 1983. Times have changed. Probably that's not enough, but there's hopefully something in between. Our feeling is that this bill is striking that kind of balance.
Don is a professional registered planner and has worked at the municipal and provincial level, is a large home builder in Ottawa and is now a planning consultant whom we, among others, use. He will deal with some of the technical questions and is in a better position than I am to answer questions.
I must say that after many appearances before select committees, starting in 1975, and opposing the progressively regressive rent control legislation, I find it a pleasant change to be here supporting a government bill. The feeling is that it's understandable and presents sensible planning legislation in Ontario. I would hope that maybe my next appearance before a select committee would be for a simpler and less intrusive rent control bill, but we'll see about that. We own about 2,500 rental units, so I can declare interest in that remark.
One hope is that the legislation will curtail a rapidly growing, expanding environmental assessment industry. Certainly, an EA is needed at the initial stage to select a corridor or the equivalent of that, but not again and again at various later stages when few route options still remain.
The repeal of the right to create apartments in housing should be welcomed by the average homeowner. He made his largest purchase in his life and believed that single-family zoning meant that, and the permission of the apartment certainly pulled that rug out from under him.
Reducing the various time limits is welcome, as well as eliminating some of the additional steps of public consultation. There is consultation certainly at the official plan stage, and it shouldn't be necessary to do it time and time again as you focus down into the final subdivision.
You will shortly be receiving a presentation by the city of Gloucester. The charts, which compare Bill 20 to Bill 163 were prepared by staff at the region, may be left with you, but were expanded on by Gloucester staff and I feel they were very well done. I am very comfortable with almost all of their recommendations. They're getting into the kind of detail that certainly I'm not, and will not attempt to do.
I turn this over now to Don for his part of the presentation. Thank you.
Mr Don Kennedy: Mr Chair and members of the committee, I would like to briefly read through a document left with you, make a few editorial comments and specific reference on it as I go, and then certainly any questions.
I'm sure that in the last few days, and certainly today alone, you've heard many different viewpoints, both in support of and perhaps from detractors, with regard to Bill 20. I'm pleased to be here with Mr Burns to give my views. They do come from a wide range of experience over the years, both in the province and out of the province, as a government employee, a consultant and representative of a home builder.
Having said that, we really don't represent a specific interest group today, but I think it's really important to remember that builders and developers in any area, and particularly here in Ottawa, always try to develop communities that their residents are happy to live in. Really their objective is that when their resident decides to move on, he'll move on to a bigger house in their project or perhaps downsize to their project. So the industry, notwithstanding the need to have regulation, is very much conscious of its homeowners in providing an ideal community to live in. I think we have to remember that, because especially in this competitive marketplace you don't want to create a situation where your residents are not sure where they want to go next.
I view the proposed changes to Bill 163 as constructive and positive. Parties who are opposed to the bill should realize that Bill 163 had much opposition in itself. Bill 20 returns us to an understandable and well-defined planning process.
There are many areas of the legislation that I'd characterize as grey areas for which further work or legislation may be required. It's not intended as a criticism, because changes and amendments reflect the dynamics of the land use planning process. The art of developing communities is a science, and as such, enabling legislation will be required on a regular basis to ensure that we have the tools to provide for quality living without extraordinary regulatory interference.
As an example of these last statements, the province produced, with the planning reform logo that went with Bill 163, a document called Making Choices. It's a synopsis of a lot of different standards in a lot of different parts of the province and is truly an excellent document as a guide to looking at alternatives for developing residential communities. I think even with that planning reform logo that was associated with Bill 163 there are a lot of good things remaining, but some of the grey areas perhaps could be looked at and reviewed.
Part of the grey area to me is that the policy statements are only a draft at this point in time. I've reviewed them. They seem to be working fairly well, and I think when the final guidelines come out that will be very helpful. But what I've read does tend to tell me that the new provincial policies are putting people and the communities they live in back on the priority list for urban and municipal planners.
There are a couple of specific grey areas to refer to, and Mr Clark was talking about exemption provisions. I'm not totally sure I understand it but I do see that unless there's a very clear definition of what can be and what cannot be exempted and who decides -- subsection 17(11) of the bill says it may be subject to conditions. What are the conditions going to be, who is going to pick them and what happens if the lower-tier municipality is in opposition to what the upper tier wants to do? So that's an area that I think needs to be firmed up a bit.
Section 8. Prescribed information in my view, relative to making an application, is very important. I think it would be helpful perhaps in the guidelines to clearly state what the prescribed information is.
There are a couple of things in Bill 20 that actually bother me, in spite of my strong support for it.
Subsection 24(2) empowers municipalities to take additional lands for public purposes, such as for transit requirements. Mr Murphy, for example, was talking about acquiring wetlands and the cost assignable for general public good. I think this is really a parallel situation. If you're going to build a Transitway and then take the land for something in the general public good, I think that has to be looked at very seriously. I would throw in that subsection 42(5) of Bill 163 still exists, and it bothers me that if a municipality takes parkland, they can still turn around and sell it for some other purpose. I get concerned about that kind of thing, the taking of the land for some purpose that's not clearly defined.
Notice provisions, subsection 29(11), are a good step towards streamlining. However, there doesn't seem to be any restriction as yet to what happens if a government agency, for example, does not respond to a municipal circulation. I'd like to see a situation where if you're given 30 days to respond and you don't, it's interpreted that you have no objection.
I think section 24 of the bill is a positive step to cleaning up some of these ideas, and if the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has a mandate to play or a role to play, that would be very helpful.
It's my view that 90 days to approval for official plans or official plan amendments, 60 days for subdivisions to draft plan approval and zoning amendments, same time frame, is not an unreasonable time frame. As mentioned by a number of speakers, cleaning up the time frames and tying them down is a very positive thing in Bill 20.
If all steps in the process are clearly defined so that if somebody doesn't respond, it doesn't matter whether it's zoning, severance, minor variance, official plan, it could go.
The repeal of the extra response time to government departments on zoning should be extended as a principle to all aspects of the process, but certainly the step of repealing under subsection 20(6) of the bill, I think is a very positive step.
Bill 20 is proposed as a positive step towards putting people and the communities they live in at the top of the priority list for urban planners. Streamlining the planning process by providing a focus for submissions, reducing processing time and setting attainable goals will contribute to this end.
Mr Len Wood: In your final comment, you say "putting people and the communities they live in at the top of the priority list." We've heard presentations so far today that concerned citizens out there, volunteer groups, who might have the most experience in the community -- maybe even more experience than the elected municipal councillors might have because they might have been living there longer -- need time to be able to find out what's going on and talk to their various members to be able to make presentations.
They're saying that when you squeeze it down to a time frame that's too short, it's only going to assist the developers and the municipal leaders, and the general public is going to be left out in the cold. I wonder if you have a comment on that. How do you deal with the general population out there?
Mr Kennedy: One of the interesting things about notice provision is that the extra time -- if the Ministry of Natural Resources writes a letter to the region pursuant to Bill 163 and says, "We need another 20 days," really what happens in all steps of the process is that the official plan and the zoning have public notice. Municipalities, generally speaking, advertise their agendas. They're in the paper, both local and sometimes regional. In the regional municipality, all the agenda items are listed. In actual fact, there's a lot of notice, although not a statutory requirement. So that provision is there for people to get involved.
The other thing we have to have some confidence in is that one thing is that the draft guidelines for Bill 20 -- this I think will help us when I refer to the grey areas -- when they come out and we all understand them will not let a municipality of any level charge off into an area of prime agricultural land, for example, unless there's a dramatic demonstrated need. I think there are a lot of safeguards there, both in terms of notice and in the guidelines.
Mr Len Wood: You mentioned that you're a landlord and own 2,500 apartments. How many apartment units will you be building with the passage of Bill 20 at a reasonable rent for the people out there now who don't have a roof over their heads?
Mr Burns: It's not Bill 20 that's worrying me, it's rent control legislation.
Mr Len Wood: Well, you can lower the rent to a reasonable rate any time you want.
Mr Burns: But you still need a return to bring the buildings up to where they should be. Ontario's housing stock is aging. Not much has happened since 1975 when rent control came in. There's that catch-up, and then the seed money to do new projects. We still have to come to grips with the cost of construction and the level of the regional and municipal development charges; there's a whole lot. I think it's going to happen, but it's going to take more than one particular bill and it's going to take a better climate than we're seeing right now in Ottawa.
Mr Baird: Thank you both for your presentation this afternoon. I'd like to ask Mr Burns a question with respect to your operations. Obviously, one of the biggest things we're trying to achieve in this legislation is a balance of the planning process and the environment and economic growth. What sort of effect -- recognizing, firstly, that no one action of the government is going to see your business ignite overnight -- even in relative terms, would this initiative have on your plans for economic development and economic growth over the next few years?
Mr Burns: None of us, or very few of us have had much experience with the present legislation. As I say, we've seen in some municipalities it's still in the shrink wrapping; they haven't gotten into it. It's difficult. It's hard to understand. If you don't understand it, you worry where the trip points are. If you know your path, at least you go down there with some certainty. That's certainly part of investment, knowing your pitfalls and how to overcome them and reach that goal. Simplified legislation is always part of it. I presume your question is apart from rent control and producing more rentals.
Mr Baird: Yes, it's specifically related to Bill 20. If we're streamlining the process and creating that balance in this legislation, if it's a longer and more drawn out affair in terms of the planning process, what sort of effect does that have on the price of a single family home that your company would build?
Mr Burns: Well, you're into carrying costs.
Mr Baird: For the consumer, though?
Mr Burns: Carrying costs, everything gets built into the end price, obviously. If you buy land at a price that's ready for development and then find you can't move quickly and your bank charges are accumulating, it's not long before you've doubled your investment and you haven't even gotten going.
Mr Lalonde: I appreciate your presentation, but definitely we could have quite a few discussions on rent control because I'm definitely opposed to the withdrawal of rent control, but anyway we are not here to discuss that at the present time.
Mr Burns: I didn't say withdrawal, I said tempering it. I don't think it's going to go away overnight, I don't think politically it can, but I hope there'd be some road to the future started.
Mr Lalonde: I noticed immediately after you said you would like to discuss that, that you're also controlling 2,500 units. I could understand why you would like some modification in there.
You seem to be in favour of the time frame of the reduction from 90 to 60 days for the approval. I believe that most of your development occurs in the Ottawa-Carleton region. My concern is that anything that could be done as fast as possible is good, as long as the people or the community have been involved and have been informed of the proposal, but in smaller municipalities outside the Ottawa region, I don't know if we have the resources in place to meet those requirements.
Probably within this Bill 20 there should be a clause in there for smaller municipalities that have their own planning people. Municipalities that don't have the planning department could turn around and hire consultants to do it, but many municipalities do have one single planner to look after the planning. That is where I'm really concerned at the present time.
You said you're against the fact that subsection 24(2) will empower a municipality to take additional land for public purposes such as transit. Who do you think should be paying for that?
Mr Kennedy: I think, sir, that a transit way facility to me is the same as a major community park facility, something that serves the common good. If it's required for a regional transit system or a regional park system, there are a number of ways to raise that money. First and foremost, of course, the general revenues, because it is a facility to be used by the whole municipality. Secondly, every development should pay its share. Consequently, if a transit alignment happens to be through a major community like Barrhaven here in Ottawa-Carleton, for example, it's a very narrow focus in terms of where it's going through. Does the guy who's the next concession over in the same community escape scot-free? That's what bothers me. It's for the whole area and as such they should pay their share.
The Chair: Thank you both very much for taking the time to make a presentation before us here today. I appreciate you coming.
CITY OF GLOUCESTER
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from the city of Gloucester. Good afternoon. At the risk of repeating myself for about the 80th time so far, we have 20 minutes for you to use as you see fit, divided between presentation and question-and-answer time.
Ms Ann Tremblay: My name is Ann Tremblay and I'm a policy and environment planner with the city of Gloucester. With me today is Mr Grant Lindsay, who is the director of current planning, also with the city. For those of you who are not familiar with this region, the city of Gloucester is located immediately east and to the south of the city of Ottawa, and the population of the city of Gloucester is approximately 105,000.
To begin, I'd like to mention that the city is generally supportive of Bill 20. Overall, the city believes that the bill will benefit lower-tier municipalities by providing greater autonomy and flexibility.
The purpose of my presentation today is to do three things: outline the elements of the bill the city supports; outline some of the concerns the city has regarding the bill; make recommendations about how the bill might be modified to the city's satisfaction.
Elements which the city supports relate to the following:
First, the provincial policy conformity: The bill proposes to reinstate the "shall have regard to" wording that existed under the 1983 version of the Planning Act. Given that this amendment will effectively restore flexibility to municipalities in addressing matters of provincial interest, this city strongly supports this amendment.
The second relates to the repeal of apartments-in-houses legislation, Bill 120. Bill 20 effectively repeals almost all of the provisions which were introduced as part of the Residents' Rights Act in July 1994. This has allowed municipal official plans and zoning provisions to effectively be re-enacted, and the city supports this modification in favour of a return to planning provisions adopted as a result of a comprehensive housing review which was undertaken by the municipality in 1992.
The third element that the city strongly supports relates to the exemption model, and I know you've heard quite a bit about this already this afternoon. Bill 20 provides the ability for the minister or an approval authority to exempt proposed plans and/or official plan amendments. The province's intent in introducing this model appears to be to provide to approval authorities the ability to classify given types of plans or amendments which are relatively straightforward and perhaps minor in nature as approvable by local municipal councils, and the city supports this initiative.
The manner in which the exemptions might be defined is, however, of some concern to the municipality. The region of Ottawa-Carleton has outlined as part of its submission on Bill 20 two proposed modifications.
The first, as you've heard from the regional chair, Peter Clark, is to delegate the authority to determine exemptions to be given to a committee of regional council or to staff.
The second provision is to allow exemptions to be determined on a case-by-case basis, and that actually forms part of their written submission.
The committee should note that while the city supports the former proposal, which is to delegate to staff or to a committee of council, the city is opposed to the notion of allowing exemptions to be made on a selective basis. Rather, the province should maintain the intent for classifications of exemptions to be identified.
On a related matter, the city believes that Bill 20 should be further amended to require that lower-tier municipalities also adopt official plans. The city's position is that since official plans provide policy frameworks to guide development decisions, both at the upper-tier and the lower-tier levels, the province could be assured that local municipalities were recognizing and addressing matters of provincial interest. This could additionally facilitate the further delegation of approval to lower tiers when appropriate.
Areas of concern include the following:
Official plan processing time frame: The new act proposes to significantly shorten official plan and amendment review processes. The city's concerns relate specifically to the radically reduced time frames for official plan amendments.
Given the introduction of the exemption model, the city's position is that perhaps different processing time frames should be contemplated for non-exempt and exempt amendments. For exempt amendments, the time frame proposed by Bill 20 would seem to be reasonable. For non-exempt official plan amendments, however, and official plans, the time frame might be somewhat impractical and might in fact be unworkable. Official plans and comprehensive amendments are by their very nature detailed and complex in nature. It is unlikely that adequate consultation and fine-tuning could be accomplished within a 90-day time frame. So given that, the streamline time frames introduced by Bill 163 might be more reasonable when considering official plans and comprehensive or non-exempt amendments.
A second element of concern relates to -- again, you've heard this already -- the referral process. Bill 20 proposes to eliminate the current referral process in favour of direct appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board. The effect of eliminating the referral process is to do the following: (1) remove the ability to screen appeals on the basis of a basic set of criteria; (2) increase the volume of appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board which will thereby only serve to further frustrate and delay the hearings which have bona fide planning issues to resolve; (3) the elimination of the referral process will further remove from approval authorities the opportunity to resolve disputes. This again is something that Chair Clark had spoken about. This will undoubtedly lead to the need for more formal forms of mediation and thereby increase the costs associated with development.
Given the potential for these negative implications, the city recommends that the bill be revised to reinstate the referral process.
The third element of concern is the restructuring of committee of adjustment provisions. Bill 20 proposes to introduce a functional distinction between committees of adjustment which are composed either entirely or in part of members of council from those which are composed entirely of members from the public.
In short, the city believes that the nature of the proposed modifications and the effective restrictions placed on appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board, compromises the integrity of this planning and development process. The city therefore strongly recommends that section 45 of the existing Planning Act be reinstated. Just for your reference, the city of Gloucester has a committee of adjustment which is completely comprised of volunteers from the community.
The fourth element relates to the prematurity test. Bill 20 proposes to eliminate the consideration of service availability as a useful criterion for dismissing Ontario Municipal Board appeals. The city urges the province to recognize that the prematurity test has the advantage of ensuring that proposals with the greatest servicing potential are considered ahead of those which are less feasible. This has significant streamlining value in itself and the province should accordingly reinstate the appropriate provisions.
There are three minor concerns. The first relates to subdivision approval time frames. Bill 20 proposes to shorten the time frame from 180 to 90 days. The city believes that the 90-day time frame is overly ambitious and would recommend an extended time frame to 120 days.
The last two minor concerns are in fact not introduced by the bill as modifications, but rather are introduced as proposed modifications by the region in their submission, and they are the following:
The Region of Ottawa-Carleton has requested within its submission that section 36 pertaining to holding bylaws be amended to allow upper-tier municipalities the right to appeal the lifting of an H designation. The city strongly opposes this request since the flexibility would allow for the region a second opportunity to appeal the same zoning amendment. The province is therefore urged not to amend section 36 as proposed.
The last item is not really so much of a concern as we would actually like to see some wording added. The region has again requested that Bill 20 be modified to recognize deferrals as a legitimate decision option. The city agrees with the intent of this proposal but would prefer that the wording established be tied to a commitment to reconsider the issue at a future specified date.
In conclusion, the city supports the intent of Bill 20 because it restores to municipalities the right to make fundamental planning decisions and provides for the further delegation of approval authority to lower tiers.
Mr Chairman and members of the committee, we thank you for your time and attention to the city's comments.
Mr Smith: Thank you very much. Certainly your comments on the streamlining process and the shortened time frames are interesting. Can you tell me, under the current provisions of Bill 163, are you achieving the anticipated time frames and targets that you feel are necessary to adequately evaluate a planning application?
Mr Grant Lindsay: Yes, we are meeting the targets with respect to Bill 163 for most applications. We have had one or two occasions where, due to the complexity and the change of certain requirements by the applicant that we've not met the provisions, but for the most part, 90% of them, we are meeting the time frames.
Mr Smith: Could you perhaps just elaborate quickly on the region's proposal with respect to the removal of holding provision and the concerns that you have specifically as a city?
Mr Lindsay: I'd be happy to. The regional municipality has expressed a concern, and I believe it's contained in their brief, that they are concerned that with holding provisions in a holding bylaw, that certain obligations will be made and they will not be consulted when the holding provisions are lifted. Generally, this is involving an issue of servicing such that when services are scheduled to go in, the region needs to confirm that they are indeed there in place or will be in place at a logical time in order for the holding provision to be lifted.
The city's concern is that we feel we adequately consult with the upper-tier government any time a holding zoning bylaw has come forth and we feel that if the region does have concerns with respect to these provisions, they have their opportunity when the bylaw is initially going through the process to take the appropriate remedy. We feel that wanting a second opportunity to possibly refer this matter to the municipal board is a source of delay, especially when the development community usually relies on a resolution passed by local council to lift the holding provisions and they generally want it quickly in order to respond to their needs.
Mr Hardeman: I'd just like to quickly go to the issue of the official plan and the approving authority and the exemption there. You've put forward in the application that the exemption may be put in place or should be put in place based on individual official plan amendments. If the upper tier is the approval authority and you did it on a case-by-case basis, what would be the difference between the individual exemption and the individual approval? If you had to go to the upper tier for an exemption each time, would that not be the same as going with that same official plan amendment to the upper tier for approval each time? How would that save time in the process?
Ms Tremblay: In our submission, we've requested in fact the classifications of amendments be identified for exemption so that we don't have to go back on a case-by-case basis. That way, we can allow our local municipal council to deal with minor or straightforward amendments, such as site-specific redesignations, those kinds of things, that they could go hand in hand with the rezoning amendments. So we're not looking for case by case.
Mr Gerretsen: I find there's some inconsistency in not only your presentation but some of the other presentations that we've heard from time to time. I come at this from having served both on a municipality, acted for developers, acted for ratepayer groups etc over the years. I've sort of looked at it from all views and I think the system ought to be fair. The general impression seems to be left that the development community and the municipalities are coming in and basically saying, "We like the new time lines, but not if they apply to us, because you know, you're asking us to react too quickly to it. So sure, the general public only needs 20 days, but we need 120 instead of 60 days," or what have you.
I'm just wondering, is there not some inconsistency there when from a practical viewpoint I can tell you it's been my experience over the last 25 years that the time periods really don't mean anything at all. It is the quickness with which planning staff, councils, government departments etc, the bureaucracy in general can react to all of this planning that's going on and all the objections etc that take a much longer period of time than even the time frame works that we're talking about here. In most municipalities, it takes anywhere from a year to two years to get a rezoning through etc. Why should we lengthen your time but not the general public's time?
Mr Lindsay: The initiatives brought forth by Bill 163 and to a great extent continues with Bill 20 is that when we have a development application proposal that's submitted to an area municipality, my staff and my planners are encouraged to preconsult before a formal application is submitted. This enables a determination of what issues will be identified, such that perhaps some of these can be resolved before an application is submitted or at least clarify when an application is submitted.
The time frames that are spoken of, yes, once the legislative clock starts ticking, we feel that at the municipal level in any event we have to allow enough time to allow for due public discussion in an open public forum as required under the act. The time frame that is suggested by Bill 20 we believe is too ambitious. We feel that there is some compromise in Bill 163 and we took the middle-of-the-road approach, I guess, as most planners try and do.
We feel this can accomplish representing the public interests and making a decision, but I believe the key to the planning process here in this province is going to be encouraging preconsultation before applications are submitted, because that is when you can get down and really deal with some of the basic issues in order that once the clock starts ticking you can have a smooth process.
I mention 120 days. In the city of Gloucester, we process zoning bylaw amendments in just over two months. We process official plan amendments in just over three months. It's because we rely on the preconsultation process.
Mr Gerretsen: I totally agree with the preconsultation process, absolutely.
Mr Hoy: Last night, I overheard one of the government members say that perhaps the issue of secondary apartments had been around since the Stone Age. I think it was prompted by something he had seen from his seat that night. Could you envision that there may be cases in Ontario where discriminatory factors are entering into decision-making and where there might be a moral obligation for the province to step in and allow for overseeing a decision made in regard to basement apartments? I don't have much time, but do you have any view on that where the province may have to step in to do what's morally correct -- and I believe if it's morally correct, it's politically correct.
Ms Tremblay: I think the province would take into consideration the efforts that some municipalities might have already undertaken to do in order to identify when it's appropriate, and in the municipality's case that's exactly what happened. We had undergone a very extensive comprehensive housing review in which we identified very specifically zones that we wanted to see them in, and this was with quite a bit of consultation with the communities, so we already had in place the provisions and the enabling policies for that and granny suites and the whole range of housing issues that were on the table at the time.
Mr Hoy: I wasn't critical of your action.
Mr Christopherson: Thank you for your presentation. Certainly, you've done a lot of work. It's very impressive, the time you've put into this. I looked for the words; I couldn't find them printed here. I assume from your presentation you did say that you were entirely comfortable with moving from "consistent with" to "have regard to." Is that correct?
Ms Tremblay: That's correct.
Mr Christopherson: I understand you're an environmental as well as urban planner. Correct?
Ms Tremblay: That's right.
Mr Christopherson: I can appreciate that from where you sit, knowing probably of your own concern for the environment, and perhaps your own colleagues and even the nature of the politics that are on your council, you may feel comfortable that your community will make the right decision when these sorts of things come up.
But are you not concerned, as someone who obviously has a great deal of experience in this area, and therefore you wouldn't limit your concern as a citizen and as a professional to just the boundaries of your community, whenever we would see a particular council not follow what would be considered true environmentally sound practices, and lose the only check on those kinds of decisions by effectively moving to words and policies that give the province no teeth whatsoever?
Does it not concern you in some way that there may be other communities in this province that will not be held to the same standard that you hold yourself to, and do you not think there's an obligation on the part of the senior level of government, meaning the province, to ensure that those protections are in place?
Ms Tremblay: I think what you're getting into or encroaching on to is in fact a discussion about the policy statement itself. We in fact took that forward to our planning committee just last night and the natural environment policies were an area of concern to staff. We discussed it with the committee at the time. What we would prefer to see is the framework within the policy statement itself, which allows for the continuation of an eco-based development and land use planning approach, rather than to be caught up with the wording that would be in the legislation that would tie you to particular things within those statements. I guess the idea, just to conclude, is to allow the municipalities some flexibility in how they're going to do those things but give them the framework that the province feels is necessary.
Mr Christopherson: That's fine as far as it goes, in our opinion. When you've got language and legislation that says you'll "have regard to," there are an awful lot of people who believe that, in effect, is nothing. You could have the strongest language possible in the policy, but if the legislation doesn't tie the municipalities to adhere to it, in effect you might as well not have the policy, because as one group said earlier, it's like allowing people to look and read a speed sign on the side of the road and then continue to drive as fast as they want.
Mr Lindsay: I think the difficulty -- and I think this is the crux of the issue -- is trying to achieve a balance between planning concerns, environmental concerns and economic development concerns. Yes, it certainly would make planners' jobs easier across the province if we had clearly defined and clearly labelled provincial statements that clearly defined what can and cannot occur from a development perspective, but as we've heard in previous submissions, that does not appear to be what the public is asking for at this point. They're asking for flexibility. They're asking for the ability to consider other aspects of an issue than strictly just the planning or environmental concerns. We have to do this, every planning advisory committee, when we deal with our elected officials. They balance the planning information along with other information in order to make an informed decision. I think the responsibility from a planning perspective is to get the information to the decision-makers so they can make an informed decision across the board.
Mr Christopherson: They don't have to make one; that's our concern. They can just totally disregard those concerns if they choose under this legislation.
The Chair: Thank you both for taking the time to make a presentation before us here today.
GREATER BOBS LAKE LANDOWNERS ASSOCIATION
The Chair: Our next presentation shall be from the Greater Bobs Lake Landowners Association.
Mr Lynn McIntyre: Thank you for the opportunity to appear before your committee. By way of introduction, my name is Lynn McIntyre. I'm president of the Greater Bobs Lake Landowners Association.
We are a non-profit community-based volunteer organization dedicated to protecting the quality of the greater Bobs Lake environment for the present and future generations. We were formed in 1968 and over these almost 30 years I've seen considerable change in the lake environment. We're made up of approximately 400 permanent and seasonal residents and we certainly promote responsible and sustainable development. We believe there has to be a framework in place to consider all the diverse interests and to arrive at a course of action.
Our lake is located in Frontenac county. It's the second-largest lake in the Rideau system, the headwaters of the Rideau system. It's a source of drinking water for communities like Perth as well as serving as a reservoir for flood control on the Rideau system.
We believe that the proposed changes to Bill 20 and the associated policy statements will lead to some environmental degradation and inconsistency in planning policy, and cause legal battles. When introducing the bill, the Honourable Al Leach stated that he expected Bill 20 to "give municipalities the autonomy they've asked for and...deserve" and "ensure that environmental rules will continue to be tough but do not stifle economic development and growth."
I think what's interesting is when we compare this to the previous government's Bill 163, which stated it was empowering municipalities, protecting the environment and streamlining the process. Although the goals are remarkably similar, the means and method to achieve them are opposite. We find that if anything, this new bill undermines the environmental protection. In fact, the word "protection" in the title of the bill is a gross misrepresentation of the content of the bill.
Our concerns fall into five areas: Lack of provincial standards, loss of provincial review, no quality control on official plans, concentration of power within one ministry and restricted public input. We believe that in the majority of the areas, the amending formula only serves the land developers.
More specifically on the area of provincial standards, we have concerns over the phrasing in section 3, "be consistent with," replacing "have regard to." We believe the change will allow decision-makers to merely look at the policy; this makes the policy meaningless. It will also introduce uncertainty and inefficiency in the system. Clear policies and legislation help to prevent big disputes. Since over 80% of Ontario municipalities have a population of less than 5,000 people, there are limited resources to be spent on planning. Clear and concise policy statements and legislation are required.
If the legislation is weakened, it will ultimately lead to a site-by-site battle each time and environmentally sensitive development application is submitted. The return to the use of "have regard to" will increase confusion, uncertainty and inconsistency, and delay applications. This will also take away power from the municipalities since all cases will have to be decided before an OMB hearing. This lack of clear direction will mean the end of upfront planning and environmental standards dropping to the lowest common denominator.
Our second concern is the loss of provincial review. Another of the objectives in Bill 163 planning reform was to reduce the provincial role in reviewing local plans. This was achieved by clear policies. The proposed amendments remove this clarity because Bill 20 transfers the approval to the upper-tier municipality. The onus will then be on the public to ensure provincial policies are adhered to. Residents who have a good working relationship with the municipal government will be put in difficult positions, having to defend provincial policy with very limited resources. The net result will be both community discord and costly, drawn-out decision-making.
The third concern we have is the concentration of power within one ministry. Changes in the bill will allow the concentration of power within the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to determine whether matters are referred to the Ontario Municipal Board. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing is designated as the only provincial government ministry that may appeal decisions to the OMB. With the focus of this bill on development, this could allow, for example, development in a class 1 wetland leaving conservation authorities or the Ministry of Natural Resources unable to appeal the decision before the OMB. Essentially, this gives MMAH veto power over matters to go before the OMB. This is particularly dangerous when judgements could be made in areas where the ministry has no expertise.
Our fourth concern is loss of control in official plans. Under section 17 of the proposed bill, the prescribed contents of official plans have been removed. Since there is no provision to provincially regulate the content of an official plan, it will be determined solely by the municipal council. Coupled with unclear provincial policies, neighbouring municipalities could apply the policies inconsistently, leading land owners in abutting municipalities to be treated differently.
Our fifth concern is restricted public input. In Bill 163, official plan amendment applications had to be dealt with within a six-month period. Bill 20 reduces this to 90 days. This is the same time frame required for making decisions on rezoning applications. This neither permits adequate study of major changes in direction by municipal councils, nor does it give any sense of permanence to official plans. The shorter time limits would appear to reduce public involvement in the process rather than providing the opportunity for it. Again, this will lead to frequent debates about where the municipality is headed.
In closing, it is our recommendation that we cannot support the bill in its present form and recommend that the committee consider the following amendments: that planning decisions revert to the "be consistent with" policy rather than "have regard to"; that the appropriate agency or ministry be involved in official plan reviews; and that all agencies or ministries have the right to appeal before the OMB.
We believe that the passage of this bill without these necessary changes, coupled with the effects of Bill 26, the Savings and Restructuring Act, will have a devastating impact on the local municipal government.
I thank you for your time and consideration.
Mr Gerretsen: What Mr McIntyre didn't say is that Bobs Lake is surely located in one of the nicest parts of Ontario. Having a residential property close by but not on Bobs Lake, I would concur that you've got a great deal to be concerned about, sir. The five areas of concern that you've identified in your brief are exactly the issues that basically have been discussed by this committee.
One of the things that we've suggested -- and I just want to hear your comments on it -- is that we approached a one-window approach from the general public's viewpoint so that they know who to contact on a particular file etc, but we also want to see some sort of a protocol document, and that it be publicized as well, to clearly indicate how the various ministries will react to a particular proposal and interact with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs; and also, in effect, that each ministry will have the right to appeal a particular matter regardless of how the Ministry of Municipal Affairs necessarily feels about that, even though it would have to be funnelled through them for administrative purposes. How would you feel about that? Would that allay some of your concerns in that regard?
Mr McIntyre: I think the concept of a one-window approach is sound, anything that streamlines the process and allows the people the opportunity to provide input. It's probably noble that we would pursue that. The concern, though, is if we funnel all the power into one ministry and it becomes the superministry and others don't have that same ability to provide input in areas where they have concerns.
The other concern we would have is with this massive rationalization of government services and employees, that there may not be the resources out there as well to provide the meaningful input that we need to achieve a one-window approach.
Mr Gerretsen: One of the concerns that we have deals with the restricted public input at the subdivision process. I believe in the Bobs Lake area you actually do have a fair number of subdivisions that were created, not just by separate lots, by a land division committee, but actual subdivisions, do you not?
Mr McIntyre: That's correct.
Mr Gerretsen: Would you not agree with me that the only way that your association can react to that is not so much when a rezoning takes place, but when the actual subdivision plan that's being proposed for, let's say, a waterfront development, that only then will you have an idea as to how it's going to be shaped and sized etc?
Mr McIntyre: Our concern in the reduced time frame in which these reviews take place is that normally they tend to occur in the winter months when all the planning is done and a lot of the people are not around to be able to provide their input. When we reduce the window in which they can provide their input, it causes us some concern.
Mr Gerretsen: But you see, what's suggested in the act is that if an area is, for example, zoned seasonal residential, the plan of subdivision go ahead without a public meeting at all. Are you in favour of that?
Mr McIntyre: No.
Mr Len Wood: Just from listening to your comments as you were going through, it sounds to me like you're saying that unless there are sufficient amendments to Bill 20, the bill should be scrapped and rewritten.
Mr McIntyre: That may be a bit strong.
Mr Len Wood: Okay. I may be reading into it.
Mr McIntyre: I think we've gone from one extreme to the other; we have to bring this back to middle ground.
Mr Len Wood: You're saying that the way it is right now would be, "This lack of clear direction will mean the end to upfront planning and environmental standards dropping to the lowest common denominator." You referred to it being coupled with the bully bill, Bill 26, that with the two of them together it's going to basically -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- shorten the time frame and shut the public out of having enough say or length of period of time to have a say on it.
Mr McIntyre: I think also when we're talking about the very scarce planning resources that most municipalities have to begin with and we're talking about this realignment or the amalgamation of several townships into one -- and I don't see whether you're going to be able to free up any more resources to put into planning -- we have some concerns there, that when you start coupling these various bills, before you know it you have the responsibility to do these things but not the resources to be able to achieve them.
Mr Len Wood: It would very similar to what we have this winter during the storms that are going on, where the minister said, "The roads are going to be safe," and you find out now that with the amount of people they fired and the cutbacks, the only way they can make the roads safe after a few people have been killed is to get the OPP out there and blockade the roads, which they've done on several occasions. It basically makes the people have to stay in their homes. They lose work, they lose all the activity that they normally do. So your concern is that the public wouldn't have any input into this at all because the time frame is too short.
Mr McIntyre: That's right, yes.
Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): You mentioned you have 400 members. What's the population of the area you represent? Is that the total population?
Mr McIntyre: The total population is around 900.
Mr Ouellette: What percentage of your membership is part-time and full-time?
Mr McIntyre: It would be probably split 50-50.
Mr Ouellette: Do you think that this legislation, if it were passed in its present form, would you make your more involved in your community or less involved?
Mr McIntyre: I think that we are quite involved with our community and our township presently. I think we have a very good working relationship. Members of our association in fact have bought fire trucks for the local township fire department. We have a good sense of community.
We're just afraid that without this clear direction in the policies, we're going to be drawn into some lengthy battles within the municipality. We don't want to see an erosion of this working relationship we have. We do represent a very diverse membership, seasonal and permanent. We have commercial operators on the lake. We have private individuals. So the concern is that we'd be put in an adversarial role. We really would prefer we have some clear direction so we know where we're headed.
Mr Ouellette: But you don't believe that your community as a whole can watch and take care of your community?
Mr McIntyre: I think when you start reducing the time frame for some of these procedures --
Mr Ouellette: Is that because it's seasonal?
Mr McIntyre: Perhaps in part, but also when you're working with volunteers in the community, it takes a long time to get the word out and to be able to -- you know, it's not like paid employees where you can summons them to a meeting. You have to work within the context of their schedules. I think that's a problem.
Mr Ouellette: The subdivision that you mentioned earlier, when did that come about and what was your group's position on the subdivision?
Mr McIntyre: There are excellent examples of plans of subdivision on our lake that we are very proud of and there are some mistakes that have been made in the past which we're paying for now. We certainly believe in development. It was development that got us there in the first place, but we just want to make sure that it's sound and it's done to a standard so that developers cannot hop from one municipality to the other. Right now, there are four townships on our lake, two counties, two watersheds. It becomes very difficult to try and keep this beast together when we don't have clear provincial direction. We would hate to see them jump from Frontenac to Lanark just because they can get a better deal or a weakening of the standards.
Mr Hardeman: Good afternoon. I was just interested in going back to -- and I appreciate your comments -- the issue of the one-window approach; you seemed quite supportive of the one-window approach. Then you have concerns as to the ability of all ministries to be able to appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board. In the instance where you have a one-window approach and it requires the other ministries all to direct their responses to an application through one ministry, would that not necessitate also that the end result would be that that ministry would have to actually do the paperwork for the appeal? If we now have a government approach that represents the view of the government, of the ministries, do you not see it appropriate that we would have then a ministry, whether it was Municipal Affairs and Housing, Environment or Natural Resources, but one ministry to actually be designated as the one to put forward the government appeal?
Mr McIntyre: Again, I think the approach of one window is an honourable and a very efficient manner of doing it. The concern is that the ability of one ministry to be kind of the superministry and have the discretion to say what goes to the OMB and what doesn't causes us some concern. The concept of one window is a good, sound concept.
Mr Hardeman: I guess we have one concern with not having one ministry doing the appeal process, that in fact we have a lot of time at the OMB and a lot of taxpayers' money expended having the ministries solving their differences in front of the OMB as opposed to solving them prior to the appeal so we have a government position, so the applicant and the municipalities can be assured that this is where the government is coming from and this is where the others are coming from and that's why we're at the OMB, not to solve the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Environment's differences at the OMB.
Mr McIntyre: Again, if you have clear policy and clear direction, then there may not be a problem, but when we're dealing in some of these grey areas --
Mr Hardeman: Your concern really is then that we need to outline the protocol of how we would achieve that final one-window approach.
Mr McIntyre: Yes, and have some strong legislation that backs it up so we don't end up in these bidding wars between ministries and infighting. But if we have clear direction, I think that's a sound approach.
Mr Gerretsen: Mr Chairman, maybe the bus on the way to Cobourg could be rerouted through the Bobs Lake area.
Mr Baird: I would propose that the committee meet in the summer for two weeks of hearings in Bobs Lake.
Mr McIntyre: Not a problem.
The Chair: Considering it will be about 9:30 at night, I don't know how scenic any part of eastern Ontario will be at that time.
Mr Hardeman: The committee is now used to long trips. I think we could likely accommodate the member.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr McIntyre. We appreciate your taking the time to make a presentation.
ASSOCIATION OF RURAL PROPERTY OWNERS
The Chair: Our next presentation is from the Association of Rural Property Owners. Good afternoon.
Mr Harold Harnarine: My name is Harold Harnarine. This is Mr Bob Woolham. He'll be addressing issues relating to the bill proper and I'll be talking about the policy statement.
Mr Bob Woolham: At the outset, I think we might say that we consider Bill 20 to be a considerable improvement over Bill 163, which from a rural perspective has given a lot of people a great deal of concern, concern I think not just in the application of the bill, but this question of local input and control in terms of "have regard to."
I'd just like to broaden, because I think what really needs to be said Harold is going to say, but I'd like to bring it into the context of my perspective as a rural property owner and how I see some of the things that are coming out of these things.
One thing is that in my observation everything is unique; there are no two individuals or things that live that are exactly the same. There are no two worms the same, no two robins and so on. The piece of property I own is the same way. It's quite unique; there's not another piece like it in the world. Now in that context of uniqueness, there are philosophical views that look, on the one hand, of recognizing the individual approach to doing things and, on the other hand, the need for state control.
We've come through five years or so where it was quite clear where the state control fitted in respect to the private individual and the private piece of property. At the same time, we also have now a great number of very well-organized special-interest groups -- to mention a few, Ducks Unlimited Canada would be one, the Ontario Federation of Naturalists, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, the Canadian Wildlife Federation and so on -- quite a few of these supported heavily with tax expenditure dollars which private property owners don't aspire to.
Now in that context as well, there's also a very large bureaucracy, and that bureaucracy has the same interests in the context of, where would you like to have control, centrally or at the local level? There's no question that the bureaucracy itself works very, very hard for things that include more regulation, more control and more input for its own employment and its own development, if you like.
What's happened, I think, is a tremendous competition, because if you're a forester, then you like woodlots, and if you're a wetland biologist, you're going to push for wetlands and so on. Whatever you're doing, on the one hand, you have this internal strife between ministries. That is the problem of different pieces of legislation.
So in the context of planning right now, we have so many overlapping rules and so many agencies involved, from the Public Lands Act to the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act to the Conservation Authorities Act, that it's impossible to get a clear-cut, easy, simple solution to things; it has to be very complicated. I'm sure that the taxpayers have spent at least $6,000 and it's still not given me an answer on how to get a few cattle across a narrow stream that isn't any wider than this.
Environment wants to protect the water, MNR wants to protect the fisheries and they can't agree; and the Coast Guard isn't sure where the canoeist fits in. They've all been there -- twice, with big trucks, radio control, everything. There are eight pages of permit applications if you choose to go that route.
Then it's not good enough really just to have it at one level, but when we come to things like wetlands -- and I'm not here to argue that wetlands are not relevant. I think they're a very important part of the process, but not when the bureaucracy gets a hold of them, because not only do we have class wetlands of a certain nature, but the conservation authorities decide it would be a good idea to put fill lines around all wetlands just as they do floodplains.
So in a sense we have then another set of circumstances that really just spend up a great deal of money, and this really infuriates the private property owner, because the legislation may have some very good concepts, but then we get into the implementation and guidelines, and that sort of disappears into this bureaucratic wilderness, and then below that comes the evaluation manual. The evaluation manual is usually done, as for example wetlands, by eight people from MNR, and no outsiders and no input from anybody where they're evaluating economic things that involve access to that private property, like hunting, trapping, picking worms or whatever it is that happens to be there. This is why I think the question of private property then becomes important in terms of what it rally means.
I think that it's this process that is involved then of looking at how development fits in the countryside, and we're talking basically of sewage and withdrawal of water. Instead of looking at what's needed in that context, the bureaucracy, with the help of the special-interest groups, is using development as a tool to advance its particular interests. This is where I call upon the politicians, in a sense, as leaders and so on, to provide the kind of representation and leadership that would manage this in a much more direct fashion.
I might say, when I use the word "manage," any time I've looked at any of the literature from the bureaucracy, the bureaucracy is always managing -- they're managing the fur harvest, the woodlots, they're managing something -- but when it comes to the private property owner, we suddenly become stewards; we're working for somebody else. So we have these huge stewardship programs.
Now I say that there's a viewpoint out in the countryside. It's not against planning and it's not against having more neighbours, but it does really find a great deal of frustration in the process.
Mr Harnarine: The Association of Rural Property Owners, for short ARPO, wishes to congratulate those responsible for drafting the new policy statement. We think that the designers have incorporated several important features, particularly questions about balancing the pursuit of economic goals and ecological goals; the flexibility in the application of the rules; the autonomy, responsibility and accountability assigned to municipal authorities; and, above all, the concise way in which all this is packaged -- welcome relief. I should add to that that there is due recognition of rural concerns in that statement. ARPO interprets this vision of land use planning as a refreshing change from the grossly unbalanced, inflexible and highly centralized approach taken by the previous, NDP government.
ARPO's position on these rules, in summary, is that they will not work well unless the old assumptions underlying the economic, legal and political structures relating to the ownership of land resources are changed or removed. Land planning, by definition, replaces economic criteria with a set of political criteria in determining how land is to be allocated among its various competing uses. Since non-land owners and mostly urban people in Ontario carry an overwhelmingly large weight in the political process compared to land owners and mostly rural people, there will always be a large measure of political tension in how rural lands are to be put to use. As a result, ARPO will argue that certain preconditions have to be put in place before the politics in the land planning process will function smoothly.
ARPO is therefore calling upon the Harris government to give serious consideration to the following three necessary conditions for the healthy functioning of the new policy statement:
(1) Ensure that when private lands are confiscated to serve the public good under the planning process that the private land owner be fairly and adequately compensated for the accompanying losses in the value of his property.
(2) Ensure that the legal questions of private property ownership rights are put to rest in Ontario once and for all by legislation that will define and protect such rights from the overt or disguised seizure by the state.
(3) To make changes to the political structure of an upper-tier municipal government to ensure that rural people are given a fair and equitable representation in matters relating to their overall interests.
The end result of these changes will clear the way for a just and more balanced distribution of political and economic power in land planning matters. They will also facilitate the application of the new rules in a more flexible and responsible manner.
On the mechanics of the policy statement, I wish to make one comment, and this deals with the linkages between the statement proper and the relevant definitions found at the back. In a few cases, we have found that the statement gives with one hand but takes away with the other at the definitional stage. I think this dichotomy calls for some scrutiny.
An elaboration of the major issues: I won't take too much time because I think the reading is in front of you. People buy land largely for private economic benefits. Planners, on the other hand, tend to overrule these private interests with actions promoting the wellbeing of society. The net result of official land planning action therefore is to confer gains on some or all sections of society at the expense or loss to the private owner.
Planners either assume that their actions are economically neutral or the planners refuse to take responsibility for the considerable economic repercussions falling out of their actions. The fact is that political actions concerned with land allocations have tremendous effects on redistributing personal incomes and wealth, and since all planning actions do involve gainers and losers, the question that we are asking is how come gainers are allowed to accept the gains free of cost? Why not transfer the gains to the losers such that you neutralize the planning results? Why this compensation principle? Simply because land ownership will be treated on par with ownership of other resources. You have your money in the bank. Why should that be any different from owning land as an asset?
It will make investment in land less risky and thus help to lower its price. It'll bring back a greater degree of confidence and certainty to the land market and it will make the land market more competitive and save it from falling into the hands of the wealthy few.
Second point: Land ownership rights and the need for legislated protection. Non-land owners living in crowded spaces need rural lands for outdoor recreation, among other less articulated demands. It is not too difficult to imagine that they will use their overpowering political weight to obtain the land resources needed to supply such services without cost to them. It is strange how people acting as individuals are generally very respectful of private property rights, but when they become part of a larger collective political force they will not hesitate to steal from their defenceless neighbours in the name of the public good.
ARPO has advanced the case for some form of legislated protection to private property rights in Ontario on every occasion it has met with government officials. We regard this condition as vital before land owners could engage in some meaningful dialogue with non-land owners on the appropriate allocation of land to meet both private and social demands.
My third point: This has to do with the structure of upper-tier municipal government and the operation of policy statements. In the Ottawa-Carleton region there is much talk these days about the virtues of one-tier municipal government. It is interesting that when rural mayors talk of one-tier government, they frequently imply the elimination of the regional government. On the other hand, when advocates of the regional government talk about one-tier government, they assume the ultimate termination of local municipal government.
I believe it is the intention of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to concentrate the powers on land use planning in the hands of upper-tier government. This means in effect an emasculation of the powers of rural people in determining the course of land planning actions in this region.
Let's look at the following facts: We have 18 elected members at present in the Ottawa-Carleton regional government. Of these, only two elected councillors, wards 5 and 6, are deemed to represent preponderantly rural populations. These two wards, however, represent 71% of the geographical land space of the region. Thus, when it comes to the political determination of land use in Ottawa-Carleton, it is clear that the rural people who own the land resources are outnumbered nine to one in terms of political representation. What kind of balance, I ask, is this? A strict adherence to the population-only criterion in determining the distribution of political representation in municipal government, in our opinion, is a gross oversimplification of the real world of politics.
Finally, the linkages between the statement and the definitions: The designers of the new statement must be careful not to give on the one hand and take away with the other. Let me give you two examples.
(a) Under 2.1.2, a farm retirement lot for residential purposes is permitted on prime agricultural land. Under the definition, this lot will only be permitted to a full-time owner-operator of a farm. I ask, why this restriction, given the reality of farming in Ontario today? How many farmers could truly say that they depend entirely on farm income to survive? This is an excessively strong restriction and is likely to defeat the general intent of the statement. All the other restrictions in the definition appear to be fair and reasonable. Why then burden the definition by a further measure of unreasonableness?
(b) Under 2.3, natural heritage, the troublesome concept of adjacent lands has appeared once more. It is clear from the statement that no development or site alterations will be permitted on significant wetlands or significant portions of the habitat of endangered or threatened species. Talking about endangered species, rural wetland owners should be classed there.
In the definition, we learn that the extent of the adjacent lands will be specified in the implementation guidelines. Not having the implementation guidelines at present, I would say that in the light of the unreasonable and rigid specification of adjacent lands seen before, ARPO would have preferred that this requirement be abolished completely. It is enough that the limits of the designated property be clearly drawn. Any development occurring in the neighbourhood of these limits will be subject to an environmental impact study requirement. If this is not sufficient for those who demand these adjacent lands, then ARPO would like to see substantiated scientific evidence for specifying such limits. Failing this, then adjacent lands must be reduced to their absolute minimum, which logically will be no more than the average width of a country side road in most instances.
Thank you very much, Mr Chairman.
The Chair: Thank you, gentlemen. We have a bit of a conundrum because there are only two minutes left.
Mr Gerretsen: Oh, come on.
Mr Christopherson: Give a little.
Mr Gerretsen: Two minutes each. They've got a lot of interesting points we want to hear.
The Chair: And there are three other groups backed up behind them.
The Chair: Well, if you think you can do something in 45 seconds to a minute.
Mr Christopherson: Thank you, Mr Chair. I'll make a statement rather than getting into questions. Having accused us of being grossly unbalanced in your report, I would say to you with great respect that I appreciate the balanced approach you have taken in coming in today.
I also note I find it interesting that by definition of this government you would qualify as an interest group and therefore would probably be considered evil.
Thirdly, I find it also interesting that you condemn any kind of -- not any kind, but government action as state control, and yet somehow, if it's the local government making the decision, that doesn't represent the state. For a lot of people, fighting city hall is indeed fighting the state. So I find quite a few inconsistencies and contradictory positions within your report, but do appreciate the time you've taken to come and present to us. Thank you.
Mr Murdoch: I just want to thank you for bringing your brief. I certainly agree with what you're telling us. I agree on property rights and it's time that we get into looking at that. I know some of the other parties don't believe in property rights, but I'll tell you, we do, and I certainly appreciate that. I want to also put on the record that Mr Christopherson doesn't talk for our party, so don't worry about anything he said. Thank you very much.
Mr Harnarine: Very obvious.
Mr Gerretsen: As far as the bureaucracy is concerned, I totally agree with you. Until the political leadership at any level, whether we're talking about the township, the city, the province, the federal government, takes a hold of the bureaucracy and really directs it in the proper way, everything we talk about here is meaningless. What you say about how individuals on a one-to-one basis respect property rights but that collectively something happens, it's the same thing with bureaucrats. Individually, they're very reasonable people, but once they all get together with their different interests, that's when you get gridlock. Absolutely nothing happens.
Just one other point. When all you get are two councillors on a regional council, how do you think we feel? These people got elected with 45% of the vote and they got something like 70% of the seats. There's something totally wrong in our system and I'm glad you brought it to our attention.
The Chair: Thank you both, gentlemen, for taking the time to make a presentation before us here today.
CLINIQUE JURIDIQUE POPULAIRE DE PRESCOTT ET RUSSELL
The Chair: Our next presentation is from the Clinique juridique populaire de Prescott et Russell. For those needing translation, the English is on 3, the French is on 4.
Mme Louise Toone : Bonjour. Je suis Louise Toone, avocate à la Clinique juridique populaire de Prescott et Russell. C'est une clinique d'aide juridique en Ontario. Juste pour me présenter un peu, et mon agence, on a deux systèmes d'aide juridique dans la province : le système des certificats et le système des cliniques. Dans les cliniques on travaille avec les gens à faible revenu. On fait surtout ce qu'on appelle du droit de la pauvreté. Entre autres, on travaille beaucoup dans le domaine du logement avec les locataires.
Aujourd'hui, mes soumissions vont surtout porter sur tous les changements dans le projet de loi qui touchent les locataires. Alors on vient, avec le projet de loi 20, révoquer essentiellement tout le projet de loi 120 sur les résidents. Ma discussion aujourd'hui va surtout porter sur cela, sur les appartements dans les maisons.
En juillet 1994, la loi sur les résidents a fait un peu comme ce projet-ci. C'était un genre d'«omnibus bill», qu'on dit, qui est allé faire des changements dans plusieurs lois ; entre autres, la loi sur la location immobilière, La Loi sur le contrôle des loyers, La Loi sur l'aménagement du territoire, et ainsi de suite, un peu comme ici. Essentiellement, ce qu'on permettait avec tous ces changements, c'est qu'une maison unifamiliale, partout à travers la province, pouvait avoir un appartement. Alors, c'est ce qu'on faisait avec la Loi. Il y avait quelques petites exceptions, mais de façon générale, on permettait toute personne dans une maison unifamiliale.
Le projet de loi 20 vient révoquer tout cela, a carrément enlevé tous les articles dans toutes les lois qui ont trait à cela. En fait, on redonne le pouvoir à la municipalité, et cela devient complètement discrétionnaire. Donc, on retourne un peu à la situation qui existait avant le projet de loi 120. On dit à la municipalité, «Faites ce que vous voulez.» Donc, chaque canton, chaque municipalité, je ne sais pas combien il y en a en Ontario, on leur dit : «Faites-le. C'est à vous.» C'est ça, le gros changement entre les deux lois ; (1) On disait à tout le monde : «Vous avez la permission» ; (2) aujourd'hui on dit : «Vous faites ce que vous voulez. Si vous le faites, voici ce que vous pouvez faire.»
Dans le même sens, la Loi 20 empêchait toute municipalité, tout canton de faire des règlements, des «bylaws», qu'on dit, qui prohibaient à des gens de bâtir un appartement dans leur maison. Ça, «maintenant c'est permis, c'est révoqué» -- je peux, si vous voulez, même vous référer aux articles de lois, mais ce n'est peut-être pas nécessaire. C'est redevenu discrétionnaire. Je crois, en fait, que ça touche un peu les objectifs du projet de loi. Je l'ai seulement en anglais, mais on parle de «An Act to promote economic growth», entre autres, et aussi de «streamling the land use». Quand je pense à cela -- surtout à «streamling» -- je pense au concept d'uniformité, finalement, qu'on essaie de rendre les choses certaines pour les gens. Si on ne l'atteint pas, l'objectif de «streamlining», et au niveau économique, je pense qu'on vient rendre la chose beaucoup plus compliquée. Ça, je vais l'expliquer un peu plus tantôt.
La loi d'avant, le projet de loi 120, imposait un certain fardeau sur un propriétaire, c'est clair. On disait à un propriétaire, «Pour bâtir un appartement dans votre maison, vous avez certaines normes.» Ça impliquait certainement des dépenses, mais ce n'était pas un fardeau énorme ; c'était rencontrer les normes concernant les incendies, quelques normes selon le Code du bâtiment, puis on donnait un certain délai.
Finalement, ce n'est peut-être pas intéressant pour un propriétaire, mais il va certainement être capable de le reprendre comme déduction d'impôt. Aussi, ça permet à tout propriétaire dans la province de garder sa maison, peut-être. On sait que les temps sont durs, on sait que les gens ont de la misère à payer leur hypothèque aujourd'hui. Quand on leur permet de bâtir un appartement, peut-être qu'ils vont pouvoir prendre un locataire, puis ça va peut-être faire en sorte qu'ils gardent leur maison. Pensons aux personnes âgées, par exemple. Ils ont des revenus fixes. Ce genre de loi leur permet peut-être de construire un petit appartement et d'avoir un revenu et des déductions d'impôts. C'est évident que les locataires gagnent là-dedans. Je parle encore de l'autre Loi ; je parle là de votre Loi ; je parle de l'autre Loi.
Les locataires se ramassent dans des appartements, où il y a certaines normes. Alors c'est évident que, si je suis ici, je représente la perspective des locataires, des locataires ruraux aussi, mais tout locataire là-dedans gagne. On estimait avant qu'il y avait 100 000 locataires dans la province qui vivaient dans des logement où il n'y avait aucune norme. Alors, quand on pense à des incendies, à toutes sortes de situations comme ça, ce sont les locataires ; ce n'est pas sécuritaire. Même quand il n'y a pas de normes en place, les propriétaires en construisent, des appartements dans leur maison. Il y en avait 100 000 avant. Même s'il n'y a pas de loi, même si on révoque tout cela, les propriétaires vont continuer à bâtir des logements dans leur maison. Cela rejoint un peu la situation des propriétaires. Si jamais il y a un incendie ou quelque chose comme ça, c'est eux-autres qui vont se faire poursuivre. Ils n'y gagnent rien à n'avoir aucune norme là-dedans.
Quand j'arrive un peu à vos objectifs ici du projet de loi, qui est de promouvoir le développement économique, «streamline» -- moi, je vais parler plutôt d'uniformité ; je pense que c'est l'approche -- je peux présumer que le gouvernement conservateur tente de déléguer des pouvoirs aux municipalités. Cela semble être clair. Ce n'est pas dans le projet de loi ici, mais cela semble être une tendance générale. Donc, on a cette tendance de vouloir donner plus de pouvoirs aux municipalités. Évidemment, les municipalités vont être contentes. Elles vont dire : «On a plus de pouvoirs. On peut faire ce qu'on veut. Il n'y a personne qui nous contrôle. Tant mieux.»
Mais le résultat dans tout ça, c'est qu'on va avoir une municipalité qui a des règlements qui empêchent un appartement. On peut penser surtout aux villes, à Ottawa-Carleton, par exemple. Ça peut être n'importe quelle ville qui a ces petits quartiers résidentiels où on dit : «Non, non, on ne veut pas d'appartement là. Ça va changer le caractère du quartier. C'est affreux.» Ensuite, on va avoir une autre municipalité, un autre canton qui n'aura rien. Mais les gens vont construire des appartements quand même et ils vont être aveugles, ils vont dire : «Nous, ça se passe pas. On l'ignore.» Puis on va avoir d'autres municipalités qui vont créer des règlements parce que votre projet de loi le permet, si on veut. Alors, on va se ramasser avec un «mish-mash», comme on dirait en anglais, avec des règlements partout différents d'un canton à l'autre.
À Prescott-Russell, on a 18 municipalités. J'inclus les cantons, les petits villages. On peut voyager 20 kilomètres puis on va avoir des règles différentes. C'est clair que s'il y a aussi une tendance où on veut amalgamer des municipalités, donc, est-ce qu'on atteint l'objectif à long terme quand on a des règlements partout différents et que, à long terme, on songe à amalgamer ? Qu'est qui va arriver ? On va avoir trois municipalités avec trois structures différentes, puis il va y avoir des chicanes. Qu'est-ce qu'on fait ? Quel règlement est-ce qu'on choisit ? Qu'est-ce qu'on en fait ? Qu'est-ce qu'on empêche ? Est-ce qu'on le permet ? Qu'est-ce qu'on fait là-dedans ? Je pense que, quand on parle d'amalgamer des municipalités, on parle justement de cette idée de «streamline». On songe à avoir une uniformité, et puis ça réduit les coûts parce qu'il n'y a pas un dédoublement partout. Quant à moi, le projet de loi 20 n'atteint pas cet objectif. Même si on dit que c'est dans le but de «streamline», je pense que le projet de loi n'atteint pas du tout cet objectif en ce qui concerne les appartements dans les maisons, en tout cas.
Pour la question du développement économique, prenons, par exemple, le petit investisseur, le petit propriétaire qui songe à construire un appartement dans sa maison. S'il a le choix entre deux municipalités ou deux cantons, l'un a des règlements, l'autre n'en a pas, il va choisir celui où il n'y a pas de réglementation. Donc, c'est l'autre qui perd. Puis à long terme, ce propriétaire-là ne gagne rien parce que ça va être fait ; il ne sera pas obligé de suivre des normes, alors il va faire ça, et il ne va pas nécessairement augmenter la valeur de sa maison parce que ce ne sera pas bien fait. C'est souvent pas bien fait.
À moins que je comprends mal, qui gagne dans tout ça ? C'est sûr que le locataire ne gagne pas, et je ne crois pas que le propriétaire gagne non plus. Le propriétaire qui songe à investir ici et là, c'est sûr que si les mêmes normes s'appliquent partout, un qui va acheter, c'est que l'appartement a été construit selon des normes minimales, alors on sait que la même chose s'applique partout. C'est bon pour l'investissement, c'est bon pour le marché immobilier, et quand on laisse le choix à toutes les municipalités, ce n'est pas bon pour l'investissement au niveau des petits investisseurs et des propriétaires.
Les municipalités gagnent, peut-être. Les municipalités vont acquérir un pouvoir, les municipalités qui choisiront de ne rien faire vont gagner dans le sens qu'elles n'auront pas d'inspecteur à embaucher. C'est à peu près la seule chose, le seul fardeau qu'on pourrait avoir. Mais est-ce que les municipalités ici sont vraiment en train de tenir compte des intérêts des gens ? Je pense que non. C'est certainement ma soumission, que non.
Le gouvernement provincial, est-ce qu'il gagne ici ? Moi, je ne comprends pas le but. Ça m'échappe. Est-ce qu'il y a eu des plaintes quelque part ? Est-ce que ce sont les municipalités qui se plaignent ? Est-ce que ce sont les propriétaires ? Pourquoi est-ce qu'on révoque ça ? Moi, je ne comprends pas. Je ne vois aucun bénéfice au gouvernement provincial et je ne vois aucun bénéfice à la municipalité. Les municipalités urbaines, c'est clair qu'elles vont choisir de faire des règlement pour empêcher la construction. Alors, qu'est-ce que ça fait ? Ça crée ce qu'on appelle le «urban sprawl», parce qu'on garde nos petits quartiers résidentiels et on dit, «Non, non, allez-vous-en dans les banlieues», puis on encourage la création de banlieues qui sont souvent très laides. Je ne les nommerai pas.
J'aimerais juste peut-être donner un exemple, quand je parle de dédoublement ou de l'uniformité, que vous appelez «streamlining» encore. Je vais me référer à Prescott-Russell, où il y a à peu près 18 municipalités. Dans chacune des municipalités il y a des normes de biens-fonds, qu'on appelle en anglais «property standards». Donc, chaque municipalité, chaque canton a son inspecteur. Il y en a qui ont des règlements, il y en a qui n'ont pas de règlements. S'ils n'ont pas de règlements, ce sont les normes provinciales qui s'appliquent. Alors, imaginez-vous un propriétaire ou un locataire qui essaie de se trouver dans ce méli-mélo. C'est souvent très difficile. En plus, ce n'est pas très efficace au niveau de la compétence. On se ramasse avec un employé dans un petit canton d'une petite municipalité qui souvent porte trois chapeaux différents parce qu'il fait quatre jobs, plutôt que d'avoir une personne qui est très spécialisée, très compétente et qui s'occupe d'une région un peu plus large. Je pense que c'est une bonne illustration que, si on permet qu'un projet de loi continue, on va se ramasser avec des structures, des normes différentes partout dans la province.
Je conclus en vous demandant de réexaminer toute la question en ce qui a trait aux appartements dans les maisons. Je suis convaincue que si les propriétaires et les locataires étaient bel et bien au courant du changement ici, ils préféreraient le projet de loi 120. Les gens, je pense, ne sont pas vraiment au courant, et c'est malheureux. Je pense qu'il faut se questionner sur le but du projet de loi. À part de donner des pouvoirs aux municipalités, qu'est-ce qu'on essaie de faire ici ? Comme j'ai dit, c'est ma thèse qu'on n'encourage pas l'uniformité. On va à l'encontre du développement économique, donc il faut se questionner sur le but du projet de loi.
Selon moi, la Loi 120 est un changement très positif. Je vous demanderais donc de sérieusement considérer, de révoquer tous les articles dans le projet de loi 20 qui ont révoqué les articles dans la Loi 120. Je suis certainement prête à vous les énumérer, si vous voulez. Merci.
M. Baird : Merci pour votre présentation aujourd'hui. On l'a beaucoup appréciée.
Vous avez dit quelque chose dans votre présentation, et je peux dire qu'il ne fait pas partie du projet de loi, de révoquer les appartements qui sont déjà là. Il y a des parties du projet de loi qui disent que ceux qui sont là qui sont légaux restent sans changement.
Mme Toone : Oui, ça, je suis au courant, mais on parle d'une période d'à peu près un an, là. Le projet est entré en vigueur en 1994, on est rendu à 1996, donc on parle seulement de ceux qui auraient été construits pendant un an et demi.
M. Baird : Oui, bien sûr, mais vous avez utilisé le numéro de 100 000 appartements dans le sous-sol, accessoires qui sont déjà là. Je pense que la grande majorité de ces appartements sont légaux maintenant, sont déjà là pour la santé, des choses comme ça.
Mme Toone : Oui, d'accord. J'ai dit que quand la Loi 120 est entrée en vigueur, c'était d'ailleurs le but parce qu'il y avait 100 000 appartements, on estimait. Mon point, c'est qu'on va retourner à ça. Si on n'a pas de règlements en place, on va retourner à la situation où on aura des gens qui vont faire la même chose, qui vont construire des appartements dans leur maison illégalement, finalement légalement, dépendant d'où ils sont, et que ce sera mal fait. Il n'y aura pas de normes. Il n'y aura pas d'inspections. Ça va créer des dangers, finalement, non seulement pour le locataire mais pour le propriétaire.
M. Baird : Je pense que 18 mois après le passage de la Loi 120, il y a 5 % des appartements dans les sous-sols qui sont vérifiés pour les standards de feu et de santé. Déjà, après un an et demi, 5 %, c'est un grand nombre dans cette période.
Mme Toone : C'est vrai de tout logement, finalement. C'est un problème partout. Ce n'est pas juste les appartements dans les maisons.
M. Baird : C'est plus grand dans ce domaine, bien sûr.
M. Lalonde : Tout d'abord, Louise, je tiens à te féliciter pour ta présentation. Il n'est pas toujours facile de venir faire une présentation devant un groupe anglophone, mais aujourd'hui on s'aperçoit que les gens ont pris la peine de t'écouter.
Tu as posé une question tout à l'heure : qui s'est opposé au projet de loi 163 ? C'est définitivement les municipalités qui s'y sont objectés. C'est qu'il y a des bons et des méchants côtés avec le nouveau projet de loi. Chaque municipalité a le pouvoir de préparer son plan directeur en conséquence, mais il serait peut-être préférable qu'à l'intérieur du projet de loi 20, le gouvernement pense à y inclure un article ou une partie qui encouragera les municipalités à encourager le deuxième logement dans le sous-sol, par exemple. Actuellement, plusieurs vies ont été perdues depuis l'application du projet de loi 163. Il faut dire, en regardant les statistiques, que c'est vrai. Les gens étaient encouragés à construire ou à aménager un deuxième logement dans leur sous-sol, mais sans regarder les implications municipales, les implications sécurité. Il faut là regarder un peu tout, la santé et tout ça, et puis dans ton cas je suis certain qu'un point qui est souvent apporté à ton attention, c'est la sécurité et la santé des gens qui doivent demeurer dans les sous-sols.
Avec ce projet de loi 163, ça aidait aussi aux propriétaires à conserver leur maison, à garder leur maison. Aujourd'hui, dans notre région, sur toute Prescott-Russell, les gens ont de la difficulté à arriver. C'est la seule manière qu'on pouvait garder vraiment leur propriété, en construisant un logement au sous-sol. Mais avec ce projet de loi, maintenant je crois qu'il est encore possible. Il faudrait s'assurer que le gouvernement incluse dans le projet de loi 20 une clause qui autorise les municipalités à accepter des zones-logis.
Mais aussi, l'autre point, c'est que dans les municipalités, souvent nous sommes pris avec les services égouts sanitaires. Une usine d'épuration des eaux usées peut-être ne permettra pas une certaine quantité que va des fois demander une augmentation de 20 % de la population dans cette municipalité. Mais les personnes âgées, tu l'as touché tout à l'heure, c'est la seule manière où je dirais 60 % des personnes âgées peuvent conserver leur propriété dans le moment, en acceptant un deuxième logis dans un sous-sol.
D'après toi, est-ce qu'il y a des municipalités qui sont contre actuellement, ou quelle est la position des municipalités sur l'article 14 dans le moment ? Il n'y en a aucun administrateur de Prescott-Russell qui nous a fait une présentation.
Mme Toone : Je ne connais aucunement la position des municipalités. Je ne sais pas. Je sais que le projet le loi 20 maintenant permet aux municipalités -- les municipalités peuvent le permettre, peuvent faire des règlements, des «bylaws» pour permettre l'appartement. C'est complètement discrétionnaire. Donc, c'est à chaque municipalité, à chaque canton de décider oui ou non.
M. Lalonde : Notre temps est écoulé ?
Mr Gerretsen: Oh, come on, let him go on.
M. Len Wood: Merci beaucoup pour ta présentation. Je représente la région de Hearst, Smooth Rock Falls puis Kapuskasing. J'ai compris presque tout le français mais je vais demander une question ou commenter en anglais.
I agree with your comments that we're going to turn the clocks back to putting people at risk. This is one of the reasons the NDP government brought in legislation, to make sure there was good, clean, safe, affordable housing in basements and to bring the 100,000 illegal apartments up to standard so that they would be good for people to live in and it would be an economic tool for people who wanted to build apartments there and help to pay for their mortgage and help to send their kids to university and college and these things.
We see that the Conservative government is going to turn the clocks back 10 or 15 years to when they were in government and run up huge debts and put people at risk. Now we have them saying again that they're going to ban apartments in basements. They can't do it. They couldn't do it when they were in power for 42 years. They had apartments all over the place that were unhealthy, unsafe to live in, and now people who own houses are going to continue to build illegal apartments and we're going to have people dying in these apartments from fires -- and unhealthy; we're going to have landlords throwing them out if they complain. I agree with you. You don't think it's a good idea to turn the clocks back to the dirty old days of when the Conservatives were in government for 42 years. This is exactly what they're doing.
Le Président : Merci, Mme Toone. Je vous remercie pour votre présentation.
Mme Toone : Merci de m'avoir écoutée.
COUNTY OF RENFREW
The Chair: Our next presentation will be from the county of Renfrew. Good afternoon. Thank you for your patience. We are slightly behind as a result of a couple of groups this afternoon.
Mr Vance Bedore: Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be here. I heard some comments just before I started on how nice Bobs Lake is. I hail from the county of Renfrew, where they say, "G'day, g'day." We have 90,000 people, about 3,009 square miles, over 300 lakes and five river systems. I understand that last night you came through the county of Renfrew in the fog.
Mr Gerretsen: We saw the best part of it.
Mr Bedore: We would certainly appreciate it if you would like to come back and visit us.
My name is Vance Bedore and I am the director of planning for the county of Renfrew. As you are aware, the corporation of the county of Renfrew represents 36 municipalities in the province of Ontario. Over the past five years, the county has been involved in submissions to the Sewell commission, submissions to the previous government. Our objective has always been to clarify the role of the provincial and municipal involvement in land use planning and to recognize the legislative authority to enable municipal governments to plan for their futures and oversee the planning process.
The county of Renfrew certainly supports the government of Ontario's objective to reform the planning system. We're in support of focusing the planning process on economic recovery within the bounds of environmentally responsive growth and development. We certainly support the government's position to try to streamline the process and cut red tape. We certainly support the government's position to empower municipalities and recognize the value of municipal diversity, local accountability and municipal autonomy. The county of Renfrew, in reviewing the bill and the draft policy statements, is pleased for the most part with the legislation. I'd like to just set out a few things of concern and issues and support that we'd like to propose to this government.
In terms of greater autonomy for local municipalities, the requirement to "have regard for" provincial policy has been in place for many years prior to Bill 163. This has allowed flexibility. The county of Renfrew, as well as other county governments, has not abused "shall have regard for" and we certainly see the return to "shall have regard for" provision will enhance municipal autonomy, provide for a more responsive planning approval system and provide for balance to what has often been conflicting provincial policy interest. So, certainly we support this government's return to "shall have regard for."
The county of Renfrew is also pleased with the empowerment to counties. The county is pleased to see counties with approved official plans will be given subdivision approval and that counties with official plans adopted under the new provincial policies will be given the authority to approve local official plans. Both of these authorities have been granted to regions, and certainly we want to be on the same footing as regions and appreciate this government's position on that.
Apartments in housing. The county of Renfrew supports the government's amendment to the Planning Act which restores municipalities' authority to establish where new second units in houses may be permitted. It is more appropriate that this issue be addressed through local land use planning documents, and certainly we support strongly the government's position.
Changes to the Development Charges Act. A key to successfully achieving growth for a municipality through land use planning is to have the ability to adequately finance the system. The county of Renfrew is of the opinion that provincial approval of development charges bylaws is unwarranted and unacceptable. We certainly see it should stay with the municipality on that particular aspect.
On minor variances, you'll see in the presentation that we recognize there has been a change. The county has left that really up to the local municipalities and hasn't taken a position on minor variances in their presentation. They, in reading it, found it confusing, and there may be a more appropriate way to deal with making it more elementary and more understandable legislation, but certainly we haven't commented on the approach.
Mandatory contents of official plans. The county of Renfrew is very pleased to see the regulatory provision for prescribing the mandatory contents of official plans to be deleted from the legislation. The province has other, more appropriate ways to influence how provincial policy interests are reflected. Certainly we consider this action of the government as trust of municipal governments and recognition of the ability of professional planning staff who work for them to determine the contents of their plans. We're very pleased to see that occur.
In terms of streamlining the planning process, we would like to see deeming of a plan or plan amendment. The county strongly believes that there is a significant opportunity for streamlining, by reinstating the deeming provision, with the inclusion of provincial policies within an approved official plan or official plan amendment. The document should be deemed to "have regard to" provincial policy, and if municipalities are in any subsequent action -- approvals of plans of subdivisions, minor variances, consents -- they don't have to go back through the test of "having regard to" provincial policy.
If you have a plan approved under the bill and the government approves that official plan, then that should be the end of it. That certainly would streamline the process. Now you go through pages and pages of documentation to prove that you are consistent with provincial policy under the existing system. I think that's unnecessary if you have a plan that has had "regard for" and that has been approved by the government, simple as that. I've indicated some of the provisions that could be in the act to clarify that.
The order exemption process: Probably the two most significant changes to the legislation are under the proposed change to the manner by which official plans and official plan amendments are approved. The first process is similar to the existing process except that you have a direct right of appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board, which we support. You don't go through the referral process and maybe months or years before it actually gets to the board, so we support that wholeheartedly.
The second one is the order exemption process. We see the second process will likely occur where there's strong upper-tier plans. The ministry may exempt an upper-tier municipality from provincial approval of its official plan amendments and will give the upper tier the authority to exempt or partially exempt its lower tiers. This process will recognize the diversity within municipalities and will further demonstrate that the province does not have to oversee or approve every municipal planning action or decision. The order exemption approach has the real potential, in our view, to streamline the process only if the minister exercises his or her authority to limit the types of official plan amendments that would require ministerial approval.
The county of Renfrew certainly supports the province's intention to move in the direction of getting out of the approval process.
Other streamlining matters: We support the government's position to go to a one-ministry, one-window approach. This change will eliminate ministries articulating contrary positions at the Ontario Municipal Board, in our experience, and will allow the province to speak with one voice on a unified position.
If you go to page 6 of the brief, there are just some comments on the draft policy statement. I realize that you're dealing with the bill today, but just a few things.
Certainly the county of Renfrew is very pleased with the direction you've taken on the policy statements. We recognize that you have narrowed it to what we consider provincial interest and not local interest, so we're certainly pleased with that. We've made some suggestions in the brief for some changes to it. There are some policies that are prescriptive in nature. You really want to look at what the desired end result is. You don't want to tell municipalities how to get there. We'd like you to keep that in mind when you're looking at the policy statements.
Certainly in terms of the policy statements under natural heritage, where you recognize the distinction on the Canadian Shield and provide some flexibility, the county of Renfrew is very pleased with the natural heritage policies and we certainly support this government in the policy statements.
One thing I'd like, if I could, to impress upon this committee is guidelines, if I could turn you to page 7 of the brief under (e), "Implementation Guidelines." Reference to the implementation guidelines within part IV, as far as we're concerned, must be removed.
As this government is aware, the existing 700 pages of guidelines issued subsequent to Bill 163 under the NDP government were to be advisory only, and they state in every guideline that they're supposed to be advisory only. In practice -- and I can speak in practice for our county, and I represent one of the county planners in Ontario, and the other 26 counties and the other 17 county planning directors are of the same opinion; we've met on it -- provincial approval authorities have interpreted the guidelines as either an extension of the comprehensive policy statements or administrative policies which must be adhered to by upper- and lower-tier governments.
If guidelines under the new provincial policy statements are interpreted and applied as they have been in the past, this will reduce the effectiveness of a policy-led system. It'll hamper innovative planning approaches and will detract from the "shall have regard" provision. If you're going back from "being consistent with" to "shall have regard for" and you have 700 pages of guidelines that are considered administrative policy, where do you stand in terms of "shall have regard for"?
The more logical approach is to have AMO establish, with the assistance of the provincial government, a best practices compendium. AMO, representing 780 municipalities or so, is certainly in a good position to put that best practices together; and get rid of all reference to the implementation guidelines in the policy statements.
I think, lastly, we are of the opinion that there shouldn't have been definitions at all in the policy statements, they should stand on their own, but if there are definitions, then reference to the implementation guidelines should be deleted.
I'm open for any questions.
The Chair: Thank you very much. We have just under three minutes per caucus for questioning. This time it will commence with the government. I'm sorry. No, we did that last time, so the questioning will commence with the official opposition.
Mr Gerretsen: Getting back to the early part of your presentation, where you state on page 3 that the provincial policy guidelines should apply until a municipality has an official plan and then in effect they should back off and the official plan should stand on its own, what you're really talking about there is a set of protocol documents, or guidelines, call it what you like, where sort of everybody knows exactly what the rules of the game are anywhere along the line, before a municipality has an official plan, once it has an official plan, and also whatever the interest of the various ministries are from time to time.
Mr Bedore: I don't really understand the question. All I can suggest is that what we're saying is that until you have an official plan which is approved under the new policy framework, then the guiding document is the provincial policies. As an example, our county doesn't have a county plan and I would be hopeful that we would be looking at it in the near future. If we prepared a county plan after Bill 20 was in place and the policy statements were in place and the government of Ontario approved that county plan, then it "has regard for" the policy statements. It's in line with the policy statements, and then when we have a plan of subdivision come in to approval to our office, we don't have to go back through the checklist of the provincial policies to see that it actually adheres to them. And that's what we're saying. That will really streamline the process as far as we're concerned, and the development industry and people coming in. I think it's necessary.
Mr Gerretsen: Do you think at that point in time there should still be a public meeting on the subdivision?
Mr Bedore: We didn't address it in our presentation, but you're establishing the principle of development through the official plan and through the zoning bylaw process, and that's where you have your public meetings. In terms of having a public meeting at the subdivision stage, through my experience, I think it's unnecessary.
Mr Gerretsen: How detailed do your rezoning plans have to be in your application in your county?
Mr Bedore: When we do an advertisement for a rezoning specifically for a plan of subdivision, we will give the --
Mr Gerretsen: No, no, no. You see, you're mixing the two now. My question to you is, how detailed does a rezoning application have to be before a plan of subdivision is actually approved? In other words, to what extent is the public out there aware as to what is actually being proposed for that piece of land?
Mr Bedore: Usually as a condition of approval for a plan of subdivision, you require a rezoning on that property. When you go through the rezoning process, you must detail in the public notice that it is, for example, a 36 plan of subdivision, the exact location and everything else. So you've already had the public meeting and the public have an opportunity to speak to it.
Mr Gerretsen: In other words, what you basically do is you do the rezoning and the plan of subdivision at the same time.
Mr Bedore: Correct.
Mr Gerretsen: Well, in that case, of course you only need one public meeting.
Mr Bedore: There's no need to have a meeting on a plan of subdivision.
Mr Christopherson: Thank you for your presentation.
Mr Bedore: Thank you for having me.
Mr Christopherson: On page 1, when you talk about the change from "consistent with" to "have regard to," you state in your submission that "Our county has never been of the view that to `have regard for' provincial policy meant we would read provincial policy and then totally ignore it." And I respect that. I have no reason to believe that you would approach it otherwise. However, there's no guarantee that other municipalities may take the same approach or that even yours would continue to if it didn't have you and others there to see that through. Do you not think that there's a legitimate argument that the provincial government has a responsibility to ensure that no municipality takes the approach of reading it and then ignoring it and that the only way they can truly do that is to have policies that are clear, protective and then have legislation that ties municipalities to those policies?
Mr Bedore: I think the "have regard for" provision is appropriate, which provides the flexibility. The province has the upper hand in terms of the approval of the planning documents and has recourse to the Ontario Municipal Board through the one-window approach. We have used, before the NDP government -- "have regard for" has been around for years, and certainly municipalities have provided good planning and will continue to provide good planning under the "shall have regard for" provision. It's as simple as that, in my opinion.
Mr Christopherson: Obviously, there are at least some people, and I'm not going to argue whether it's a majority or minority, but obviously there are at least some people who believe differently. Certainly we did, and that's why we brought in the legislation that we did and still stand by that.
My concern is, and I've had an opposition member make the same claim, that while the provincial government's watching it so, there's always the check and balance in there, and I have two concerns about that.
One is that this government has done nothing. They've said a lot but done nothing that shows that they're serious about protecting the environment and protecting the kinds of values that are outlined in the current legislation. That's the first point, and it's hard for you to comment on that one.
The second one, though, is that with the massive --
Mr Bedore: Well --
Mr Christopherson: If I could finish, please.
Mr Bedore: Except I disagree.
Mr Christopherson: With the massive cutbacks that are going on in the provincial government and those that are planned, there's absolutely no assurance that this government's going to leave the government the means by which it would be able to monitor these sorts of things and stay on top of them. I would suggest that if they were really serious about providing those protections, rather than saying, "We'll monitor it and we'll be there if need be" -- if that's the case, then why not just leave the legislation in place that says you have to be consistent with and then it's automatic?
Mr Bedore: Just a quick comment: I think this government has provided in rural areas the opportunity for protection of the environment by providing the strength in counties, in our areas, to prepare a county plan and to be on the same footing and to have subdivision approval and local plan approval. That's certainly a carrot for counties to get into planning, and if conservation authorities are moving away from some of the areas and if the Ministry of Natural Resources is having cutbacks, certainly the residents of the county of Renfrew can protect the integrity of their lake environment, their 300 lakes, by putting forward a county plan to address that issue. The carrots are here in this legislation to allow the counties to do that if the political will is there.
Mr Christopherson: I'm not arguing the point of whether or not it's valuable and progressive to have counties putting in official plans. I suggest that's a good idea. But what I am talking about is we're talking provincial legislation and provincial policies that affect everybody, and we believe very, very strongly that this is just leaving it wide open to potential abuse and that if they're serious about protecting the environment, why take the risk? We think the answer is they clearly aren't that sincere about the protection they talk about and that's why they've opened the process up as far as they have with Bill 20.
Mr Bedore: I think the public are sincere about protecting the environment and the public will ensure that the environment will be protected through upper-tier plans and through local plans.
Mr Christopherson: The public's been here already and said they don't have the means by which they can do that.
Mr Murdoch: Some of the public, not all the public.
Mr Hardeman: Just a quick question, and thank you for your presentation. I wanted to go to page 2, your comments on the Development Charges Act. I'll turn it over to you, Mr Murdoch, in a moment. You say in there that "The county of Renfrew is of the opinion that provincial approval of the development charges bylaws is" inappropriate. Does the county of Renfrew presently have development charges, and recognizing that in Bill 20 it is just a temporary measure to deal with the process or the transfer from, hopefully it will be a reviewed process at the end of this. Do you see that as a problem?
Mr Bedore: The county of Renfrew doesn't have a development charges bylaw at the county level. I guess it's like apartment housing. They just think it's a local issue and allow the local municipalities to determine how they're going to finance this system, recognizing that there is something to come.
Mr Hardeman: Thank you very much. We'll turn it over to Mr Murdoch.
Mr Gerretsen: I think he ought to be allowed to say what he wants to.
Mr Murdoch: Yes, so do I.
Mr Gerretsen: Go ahead. I'll give him all the time he wants.
Mr Murdoch: What you're doing is you're letting these guys and the dippers get away with too much. I mean, the fact is that they don't trust local municipalities; it's the whole issue here. They want to control it all from Queen's Park.
Mr Len Wood: And you want to give all the control to Mike Harris.
Mr Murdoch: You tell me. I bet you in the past when you used to use "to have regard for," the province still has the ability to take anyone to the OMB if it doesn't agree that they've had regard for.
Mr Christopherson: There's no bureaucrats left, and you hate them all anyway.
Mr Murdoch: You can't seem to get it across to the Socialists that this is what's happening. They don't understand. They just want to control it all. They don't believe in local autonomy, and the local people elect these councillors. You guys can't get that through your head. So I think we have to get that here, and you can tell me if I'm not right, that they can take it to the OMB with this new policy.
Mr Bedore: That is correct.
Mr Murdoch: See? We've been trying to get it across to these Socialists for five years and they didn't understand, so now we have to do it this way.
Mr Len Wood: So now you're going to fire all the government employees to make your point.
Mr Murdoch: Well, they don't want to work. They want to go on strike. But that's fine.
Mr Len Wood: Well, you're going to fire 27,000 of them. That's why they're going to go on strike.
Mr Murdoch: This gentleman has more common sense than I've heard for a long time, and I really appreciate what you've brought to us. As I say, you've got a lot of common sense.
Mr Gerretsen: He comes from a great riding.
Mr Murdoch: A good riding. I don't know what he --
Mr Gerretsen: A great riding. Mr Conway has represented that riding to his best ability for 20 years.
Mr Murdoch: I'm glad you brought that up then because your member did bring to this table, and I think his biggest concern about the whole thing was, how did the Palladium get set out where it is. That seemed to be his biggest concern, so I wonder if you have any concerns about how it got out there?
Mr Bedore: Absolutely not.
Mr Murdoch: No, see, there you are. That's what their member brought to us. We really appreciated that comment from your member.
Mr Bedore: That's in the region of Ottawa-Carleton. I have nothing to do with that.
The Chair: Thank you for your presentation.
The Chair: Our last presentation this afternoon is Mr Robert McKinley. Good afternoon, Mr McKinley.
Mr Robert McKinley: Good afternoon. I'll try and restrict my comments to less than 20 minutes. I know I'm the last presenter of the day. I'm sure you've all heard enough before my speaking.
Mr Gerretsen: It depends what you're going to say.
Mr McKinley: One thing I will do is try and make it a non-partisan presentation.
Mr Hardeman: Much appreciated.
Mr Christopherson: The government won't know what to do with that kind of presentation.
Mr McKinley: I'll try. I may be a little biased, but I'll try. Let me preface my remarks by introducing myself. I am a lawyer and I practise in the field of municipal development law. I've been doing that for about 21 years now and I've seen some things go on over the last 21 years that have, I guess, caused whoever was responsible for inviting me here today to think that I might have an opinion to share with you. Whoever that person is, I'd like to say thank you, and thank you for the opportunity to speak to you.
I'm sure you've heard over and over again the same comment from different factions about Bill 20, about how some people may be happy with it, other people think it might miss the mark, and I'd like to preface my remarks by saying, generally speaking, I think that the spirit and intent of the bill is proper and it's long overdue.
Mr Christopherson: But?
Mr McKinley: Having said that, though, I'd like to address one particular concern and I've decided to speak about one concern so it's not going to get lost in an overall discussion of a number of the other points in the bill. That concern comes from what I see as a fundamental inadequacy in the process itself.
The Planning Act in Ontario has traditionally governed the relationships between either the province and municipal governments or, more important, land owners and their higher levels of government, and has governed the process in essentially a check-and-balance system. In other words, there was opportunity through public participation to achieve a result, and one side or the other of the issues could always have the matter dealt with later at the Ontario Municipal Board.
The system, and the Ontario Municipal Board process, is designed essentially to deal with conflicts or disputes between land owners on issues of official plan, zoning or subdivision and, in my opinion, generally speaking, the way it functions is adequate. It could be improved upon, but none the less it functions in an adequate way in dealing with that kind of issue.
In my practice where I see the system breaking down and what I'm afraid will happen is that the passage of this bill will simply result in ignoring what to me is an equally important problem. It comes from the emergence in this province of provincial policy documents, some of which are wonderful, some of which are long overdue and some of which are both confusing and disruptive to the process.
When I said I think that the Ontario Municipal Board is an adequate methodology to treat disputes between land owners and the hierarchy or tier of government, there's nothing in the powers of the board or in the legislation or in the bill itself that allows a land owner to address a legitimate issue with the policy people in the Ontario government or in the bureaucracy of the Ontario government. In fact one of the issues that clearly is becoming a serious problem for the land development industry is its inability to get a clear and concise response to concerns that arise from policy conflict.
The problems are not simply land owner problems. As one of the speakers has already alluded to, there are going to be serious changes in the bureaucracy. There are going to be cutbacks of staff. The resources available that are already strained in some levels are going to be cut. The ability to answer questions or to deal in an effective way with questions is going to change. Simply not dealing with them is by itself a method of refusal to answer a question.
I have a serious concern about the lack of a check-and-balance system that the OMB provides to the process where a municipality is involved not applying to or, in some similar parallel process, not addressing the lack of ability to deal with conflict on policy where there's a dispute, say, between a municipality and a member of the bureaucracy at the provincial level, between a land owner and a bureaucrat dealing with a policy issue or between departments that have conflicting policies. Please don't underestimate the fact that that issue exists.
If I could use an example, and this is a fictional example, you may have a farmer who is farming valuable class 1 agricultural land. Running through his property is a coldwater stream in which trout spawn. His stream is dammed temporarily by a beaver dam and the stream is flooding over, creating fish habitat that is now destroying his ability to crop his entire class 1 agricultural land. So he makes an application to the local conservation authority for a fill permit because his biologist told him the only way he can remove the beavers to protect his agricultural land is to fill in the areas that they've taken for themselves.
He's then told by the conservation authority that the efforts to fill the land are going to cause destruction of fish habitat and affect downstream water quality and that, accordingly, he can't do that without becoming involved in a federal fisheries and oceans compensation program, while at the same time he is precluded from maximizing the use and potential of his class 1 agricultural land.
I've been involved, although I said that's a factual experience, in a circumstance not unlike that, and one of the statements that came from one of the bureaucrats in dealing with the question was: "You know what? We don't have a policy that deals with conflicting policies." I make the point not to belittle anyone. These people are trying to do their job as best they can. They've been handed these documents and told to enforce them. Their problem is that they have a job to do with little discretion to deal with it and they have no ability to change the rules. What I am suggesting to you is that what is fundamentally lacking here is a process where someone who runs into conflict with the interpretation or application of a policy has recourse to have it addressed.
I suppose, knowing that fiscal constraint is a pretty important matter to the government today, to come forward and ask for you to provide an additional service represents some problem. I can only say to you that if you would see fit to give consideration to that kind of opportunity, I would expect the people would be so relieved that they might even be willing to pay a fee for service to allow it to take place and that some kind of a user-pay policy could be implemented.
Whether the system I'm suggesting has to be permanent or whether it has to be temporary, I'm not convinced of. I think it's important today because, as I said, we're going through significant transition, there are bureaucrats who are confused, you've got changing policies. I'm sure you haven't done it exactly right, although I'm not criticizing it, but definitely there needs to be a means to address, as I said, what I call policy conflict.
I said I would focus my comments on one issue because I wanted you to hear that issue. Thank you very much.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr McKinley. We have about three minutes per caucus. We'll start with the third party.
Mr Christopherson: Mr McKinley, thank you very much for the tenor of your approach, given our last hearing of the day, which tends to be as much an opportunity for us to even the scores of the day as it is to listen to the actual presentation. I say that to all of us and I don't cast any aspersions in any particular direction. Thank you very much. I mean that very sincerely.
I'd like to respond with a thoughtful response to the issue you brought forward. I think you raise a legitimate concern that applies not just in planning but to whole hosts of areas where government has a role to play, and we can debate as parties how much of a role there should be. But I think there's a legitimate issue in making sure that laws and procedures and guidelines and policies are understandable, that they're workable and that when you get into the logjams that you've talked about -- pardon the pun -- there are ways to work yourself through it.
I would suggest to you, however, that our greatest concern is that there are arguably two extremes in this, and one is where you've got so much red tape and so much process and so much bureaucracy that things just grind to a halt and inertia takes over. I would also suggest, though, that our concern, and now I'm being partisan, as New Democrats is that the other extreme of this is to say, looking at the inertia extreme, therefore our answer is to deem all bureaucrats to be evil entities, not as individuals but as a totality; that they're evil, that they need to be reduced, that the best government is smaller government an, if you see a document that has 700 pages or volumes of reference, it must be bad just because it's complex. Therefore the answer is to take a very short-sighted, simplistic answer that just goes after things with two-by-fours and other such methods.
I think that's equally as dangerous for us as a society as the other extreme. We worry that the government has indeed taken that approach and that it sounds to us very much like things being put forward by the Buchanans and the Gingriches of the world, who just seem to believe that there's no role for government and the more they get out of the way and let people go on with their business the better society will be. I just think that's so wrongheaded in terms of providing the kind of balanced, fair, decent society that I think we all want.
I think you've helped pose the question; how we find the answer is sort of the battle that we're having here. But we do very much disagree with the government's opposite and extreme approach that just says pull government out of things and therefore they'll get better. That's just as bad as throwing too much government at a problem, in our opinion. I do again thank you very much for the thoughtful presentation you've made today.
Mr Carr: Thank you very much. I'll be very brief today, because Mr Murdoch wants to follow up too. Your example actually would be funny if it wasn't so serious, and I think that's the --
Mr McKinley: Well, that one cost my client $5 million.
Mr Carr: Right. And that's the biggest example of why there needs to be change. But I just wanted to pick on what you said about the fee for services, how do you see that working? Can you give us some advice of what you see from having been through the process? Would you like to expand a little bit on that?
Mr McKinley: Yes, I would. In our judicial process now we've needed to streamline some things. Access to judges has been as difficult as access to the Ontario Municipal Board. One of the things that judges do is receive notice of application and they'll do conference call motions and they'll deal with things on a summary basis. Both points of view have an adequate opportunity to prepare material, put it before that person, then a summary decision is made by phone call.
An application for rezoning is supported by a fee; an application for a plan review is supported by a fee. There's no reason in the world why the person, whether it's the department or the individual or the municipality, can't make an application supported by a fee. It's the process that we now use. The implementation of it, as I say, could be done by document with supporting material. The hearing of it doesn't have to be convened in a meeting hall in Renfrew county. It can be done over the phone out of an office at the Ontario Municipal Board or other facility and it needn't be complicated.
Just to address one of the comments that Mr Christopherson made, one of the suggestions I'm making here is as much for the benefit of the employee as it is for the developer. In my experience, we have some fine people who don't know what direction to go in next. They're being pulled and tugged by ideology -- some by personal belief, some by lack of personal belief -- and they're confused right now. They're worried about political pressure that may cause them the loss of their job; they're worried about not doing what the policies require them to do. So the system I'm suggesting is not simply for the benefit of the development community. It would very much benefit the bureaucrat as well.
Mr Christopherson: I understand that.
Mr Carr: Mr Murdoch wanted to say something.
Mr Murdoch: I'd just like to point out that in this bill we are trying to streamline it a bit with the one-window approach through Municipal Affairs. I think that will be a help. We also in the government have a committee now that's with Frank Sheehan, the member for Lincoln, who's trying to find ways to cut red tape in all areas and aspects of government. Those two things I think will help. It's unfortunate you had to listen to a three-minute rant from a socialist government that would spend $10 billion for five years every year just so they could beef up the bureaucracy and actually get less services. Thank you.
Mr Christopherson: Way to go, Bill, way to end on a class note.
The Chair: Moving to the official opposition.
Mr Gerretsen: I completely and totally concur with you and I've looked at this from all three sides over the last 20 years and been involved from all three sides. There are two issues here: One is process, which is the Planning Act, which is maybe about 5% of the issue, and the other is the bureaucracy, the policy statements and everything. I don't want to take on the bureaucracy. All these people are all extremely well-meaning individuals. Let's get that straight.
How do you resolve the conflicts between different views on things, different policy statements and that whole thing? That's why I think it's so important for us, first, to take a look at the policy statements as well and, second, for there to be a protocol established by which you resolve issues between different ministries that may have different involvements in a particular matter.
I couldn't agree with you more. We somehow think that Bill 20 or Bill 163 or whatever came before that are the problems in allowing things to happen. That's not the problem. The problem is how you reconcile all these different views within the various ministries on that. That is both to the benefit of the developer and the general public out there, who are just as confused when a matter takes a year to reach the OMB and nobody really knows who's going to take what position on it, including the various ministries, from the municipal viewpoint, from every viewpoint.
Unfortunately, in this process we've gone through over the last two or three weeks, we haven't been allowed to address that. I'm not blaming the government for that. It is just our own internal process that hasn't allowed us to address that. Until we get that established, a protocol process by which you resolve these things through mediation -- and the kind of example that you gave is an excellent one -- there's no reason why it shouldn't happen.
From any viewpoint, why should it take a year to get a matter before the OMB when so much work could be done in the meantime to try to resolve the main issues or even the total issue? That is to everyone's advantage, whether you're for something or against it. Until we start addressing that kind of thing, all this is basically just window dressing. We're only dealing with 10% of what it's really all about, and I couldn't agree more with what you've said.
Mr McKinley: The two fundamental problems that the development industry faces today are time and uncertainty.
Mr Gerretsen: Exactly.
Mr McKinley: And those two issues are addressed, to a large extent, by what's been done, but not, in my opinion, at the policy level.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr McKinley. We appreciate your taking the time to make a presentation before us here this afternoon.
Ladies and gentlemen, that being the last item on our agenda this afternoon, the committee stands adjourned until tomorrow morning at 9 o'clock at the Pine Ridge Room in Northumberland Mall.
The committee adjourned at 1654.